From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Homelessness: To pee or not to pee

8th Century BCE Toilet, City of David

Those who “play” at homelessness by going on temporary wilderness expeditions often think that it’s great fun to pee in the woods.  However, for those truly homeless persons, peeing anywhere at all can be the ultimate challenge.

As Barbara Ehrenreich so vividly pointed out in her recent article titled Homeless in America: Now it’s front page news, “to yield to bladder pressure” can be a recipe for arrest.  Not only is “public urination” a crime in many “civilized” settings, but places like Sarasota, Florida are taking the criminalizing of natural biological functions even further.  Since 2005 in Sarasota, it has been against the law  to “engage in digging or earth-breaking activities.”  This law is not aimed at homeowners who dig up their lawns in order to impress the neighbors; it is instead aimed at those for whom a latrine is a bare necessity.

And Sarasota doesn’t stop there.  According to Ehrenreich, it is also illegal in that fair city to “cook, make a fire, or be asleep and ‘when awakened state that he or she has no other place to live.’”  In other words, it is against the law in Sarasota “to be homeless or live outdoors for any other reason.”  These “Quality of Life”
type ordinances began with New York City’s then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani back in the “roaring 80s” - and proceeded to make it a crime to even look “indigent” in some public places.

How does all this measure up with America’s “Promised Land” image?  If the Gospel of Matthew is any indication, it doesn’t.

Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV) presents Jesus’ parable of The Sheep and the Goats.   In it, the Son of Man separates those who are “righteous” from those who (woe to them) simply aren’t.  The key yardstick for “righteousness” that appears in this parable is the way in which the indigent have been treated.  Not only are
the indigent presented as deserving food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and compassionate companionship – but they are also integrally identified as being at one with the heavenly King.  (Matthew 25:40:  The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”)

For those who are now between camping trips and perhaps wondering, “What does all this have to do with me?” – the time to attitudinally repent is now!  Ehrenreich (a modern-day prophet) warns:  Homelessness is where “the 99%, or at least the 70%, of us, every debt-loaded college grad, out-of-work school teacher, and impoverished senior” may well be headed if the Occupy Wall Street movement does not succeed.


Copyright October 26, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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