Street Stories- “Move Along!”

go homeI was waiting at the bus stop on my way to go to Mass and a police car pulled up… moving fast enough to where I felt the need to jump back from the curb as a precaution. What was the hurry? Well… there was a man who is a senior citizen sitting in his wheelchair next to me at the bus stop. You may be wondering what the crisis was. He wasn’t intoxicated or even causing a scene… he was quietly sitting next to me… in fact we were chatting and he was quite friendly.

The man was guilty of being homeless and sitting in his wheelchair at a bus stop on a public sidewalk. Keep in mind he is a senior and suffers from a physical disability (picture your parent or grandparent in his place).

The police officer didn’t even get out of his car… he just yelled out the window at the man to leave. The man replied… “But I’m waiting for the bus!” He was once again sternly told to leave. At this point I said… “Do you want me to leave too or am I allowed to wait at the public bus stop because I don’t appear to be homeless?”

Apparently he wasn’t pleased with my response and sped off. The bus driver wouldn’t let the man get on because he didn’t have enough money… if I knew I would have given him the bus fare. As the bus was pulling away I looked out the window only to see the police officer had circled the block and was about to make this homeless disabled senior “move along”… I’m assuming so tourists wouldn’t have to look at him while they enjoy their brunch and spend lots of money shopping. The man was just sitting there in his wheelchair… he wasn’t doing any harm to anyone.

wheelchairI was sitting in Mass wondering about how many of the people sitting in the pews with me know about the “no sit or lie” ordinance which, in certain circumstances, prohibits sitting or lying on the sidewalk or other public space. Basically it’s criminalizing homelessness. It’s a law here… the police officer was just enforcing a law the community voted to enact. There are far from enough shelter beds or social services to care for people in our city… and yet if you sit or lie down, like the man next to me at the bus stop, you can be ticketed, arrested, and even incarcerated. It’s cruel.

I just wonder if people would be outraged by this if they were aware of the reality of the situation. I see it happen on a daily basis and I’m outraged by it every time.

Poverty

For more information about the criminalization of poverty and homelessness check out http://wraphome.org/

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