The Crime of Living in Boise
Idaho makes living a crime; Supreme Court says “No way. Suck it up, Boise.”
Man is a land animal. And yet the city of Boise in Idaho does not want to recognise this simple fact of humanity, having made it a crime to sleep or camp in public areas.*
Everyone has to be somewhere, and if that somewhere happens to be asleep in a Boise park, it is a criminal offence.
The city passed a law aimed at cleaning up the tattered edges of the human race that happened to be homeless on their streets. One can sympathise with the city’s position. The homeless are rarely prosperous and cheerful examples, and they make the place look untidy.
Furthermore they and their possessions present a health risk, not to mention the potential for conflict between the homeless and the more fortunate. And the smell!
So, make homelessness illegal. Problem solved!
Luckily the law was appealed, taken through the court system, and found unconstitutional as “cruel and unusual” to punish people who had nowhere else to go. The Supreme Court declined to hear Boise’s case against that decision, and that is the end of it.
The simple act of living means that people take up a piece of the Earth’s surface. They breathe, eat, drink, and create bodily waste. They need shelter from the elements, and health care from time to time.
In a society where everything has a price, and some have no money, a problem arises. The way that a nation deals with its homeless says a lot, I think.
I remember my first visit to Washington DC. Here in the capital of the richest nation on the planet, there were people sleeping in the snow.
In Japan, urban riverbanks were set aside for camps made of blue plastic. The office towers in Shinjuku hosted nightly communities who vanished at dawn.
In Iran, there were no homeless at all, and city parks sprouted tent villages to house travellers from the rural areas.
I find it hard to fathom the mentality, in a land which supposedly values the teachings of Christ, that would make being homeless a crime. There is no natural justice in such a position. Blaming and punishing the most unfortunate members of society for the simple act of living on the planet is indeed cruel and unusual.
Asking those least able to deal with the problem to solve it is also mindless stupidity. A community that includes homeless folk must look after them; there is no acceptable alternative.
Except in Boise ID, it seems, and all those other cities and towns which thought it might be a reasonable thing to make living on earth a crime.
Supreme Court Won’t Hear Case On Ban Against Homeless Sleeping In Public Spaces. National Public Radio, written by Vanessa Romo and Kurt Siegler, 16 December 2019
Supreme court won’t revive homeless camping ban. The Guardian, Vivian Ho, 17 December 2019