Letters to the Editor

Ending Pottinger shoves homeless issue aside

Re the May 31 article, “Miami moves to end ban on police harassing homeless,” one wonders how anyone, with a modicum of knowledge and a conscience, could advocate terminating the Pottinger agreement under the guise that circumstances have now changed and the agreement restricts the ability to work in the best interests of the homeless.

Termination of the agreement would result in criminalization of homelessness, which we know to be ineffective. It does, however, serve to please community leaders and businesses who would rather hide our failure to positively address the problem. Criminalization of homelessness serves no purpose other than punishing individuals for engaging in life-sustaining activities on the streets.

As our experience before Pottinger has shown, fines and criminal records are counterproductive, as they create additional hardship in obtaining housing, employment, and certain services; fail to increase access to services; undermine the ability of service providers to address needs; and thwart efforts to re-integrate the population into mainstream society. In fact, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness strongly advises local governments to refrain from enacting laws criminalizing homelessness.

From a cost-benefit perspective, it is significantly more costly to detain the homeless than provide shelter in an environment specifically established to address their needs. Furthermore, at a time when we recognize that our criminal justice system is overburdened and diversion initiatives have been implemented, it is ludicrous to propose criminal sanctions.

Until such time as we explore and address the underlying causes of homelessness, and in the interim implement programs with proven success records, the inability to rectify our predicament will continue.

Joyce Voschin, Davie