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« Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 247 -- Offshoring & Outsourcing. | WILLisms.com | Quotational Therapy: Part 67-- Martin Luther King, Jr. »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 248-- Meanest Cities To Homeless.

Worst. List. Ever.-

You may have seen this list of the meanest cities to homeless people:

1. Sarasota, Florida

2. Lawrence, Kansas

3. Little Rock, Arkansas

4. Atlanta, Georgia

5. Las Vegas, Nevada

6. Dallas, Texas

7. Houston, Texas

8. San Juan, Puerto Rico

9. Santa Monica, California

10. Flagstaff, Arizona

11. San Francisco, California

12. Chicago, Illinois

13. San Antonio, Texas

14. New York City, New York

15. Austin, Texas

16. Anchorage, Alaska

17. Phoenix, Arizona

18. Los Angeles, California

19. St. Louis, Missouri

20. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

You may have even read some or all of the 161-page report by the National Coalition for the Homeless (.pdf), detailing how and why the above cities are so darned mean.

But did you know that this list is perhaps the weakest piece of garbage in the history of lists?

Take Austin, Texas, for example, the 15th meanest city to homeless people. Where, I wonder, would Austin have been had it not built this multi-multi-million dollar homeless resort and spa (and architectural marvel) on a prime piece of real estate in touristy downtown:


Believe me, Austin is far from the 15th meanest city to the homeless. It, on the contrary, could easily compete in a "coddles the homeless too much" contest. This is a city with homeless people industrious and organized enough to produce a regular newspaper, the Austin Advocate. This is a city that made this monstrosity...


... a celebrated Austin icon and a "respectable member of the community." Leslie Cochran even ran for Austin Mayor more than once, garnering enough of the vote to appear on the local news election night ticker.

This is a city with local judges who declare reasonable anti-panhandling ordinances unconstitutional.

This is a city with a main "drag" (Guadalupe Street) next to The University of Texas campus that is polluted and overrun by foul-smelling, junkie "drag rats" (or "worms"). These aggressive panhandlers, many of which are young, hackey-sack-playing hipsters from middle class families who gravitate to Austin from all over the country because of its reputation for being cool and laid back, are just part of Austin's unique charm, according to many locals.

In short, this list is absolutely bogus. Austin, Texas is about as far from mean to homeless people as a city can be. And what's with San Francisco being on this list? Isn't this the city that is known for heaping lavish government benefits upon its homeless population?

Let's get real, here. There are people who are legitimately homeless due to circumstances beyond their control. They aren't junkies. They might be disabled or elderly or the victims of catastrophic life events. They deserve our help. But when a society coddles the homeless, creating an environment where homelessness is celebrated as "charming," where artistic suburban kids dressed up as hobos feel part of some sort of privileged class (and can rake in hundreds of dollars a day), we're doing a disservice to everyone, particularly people with real problems.

Whereas some homeless people with severe mental illnesses would have once been confined to some sort of mental health treatment facility, thanks to Ken Kesey (and other crusaders like him), we now view those places as dangerous, dehumanizing looney bins. Thus, instead of mentally-ill folks being taken care of in institutional settings, they are roaming the urban centers of America on their own, more helpless and vulnerable than ever.

And let's also stop pretending that being "mean" to homeless people is causing or perpetuating homelessness. Far from it. And, media, do a little legwork and expose these sorts of lists as bogus, will ya? Please? For once?


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Offshoring & Outsourcing.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 January 2006 12:47 PM


He'd make a cuter girl if he would just shave.

And not just his face.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at January 16, 2006 02:52 PM

If he was a real man he'd wear a thong with lace...

Anyway, On a personal note: Dallas as only #6!
Whatever, We should be #1. I'm going to go roll some bums personally just to change that.

Posted by: Rob B. at January 16, 2006 04:11 PM

Ft. Lauderdale just had that homeless beating case by a teenager... I used to give the homeless people on the street money! After I saw a man on the corner with a sign "Dieing for a Cheeseburger". I bought him a cheeseburger and tried to hand it to him. He refused it and started cussing me out saying he didn't want my ***#$%%%^ cheeseburger! Luckily my husband was in the car behind me and he told him to go beg on another corner! Since then I never give them money unless it is a charitable org.

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at January 16, 2006 04:29 PM

Santa Monica is not mean to the homeless, unless letting them camp out in a public park overlooking the ocean in the downtown area is what you call mean.

Posted by: laxpat at January 16, 2006 07:02 PM

I was visiting San Francisco with my wife who was concerned about all the homeless. Then this old homeless man on a bike, with a cat in a basket pulled up. As he was waiting for the light to change, he was busy going through all the change that people had given him while panhandling on the waterfront, tossing all the pennies into the gutter. Probably a $1 or more.

She was speechless. But she didn't feel bad for them any longer.

Posted by: Fred Fry at January 16, 2006 09:40 PM

Whoo hoo! Number 5! I knew we'd be up near the top.

Posted by: Jim Rose at January 17, 2006 12:27 AM

Funny how it didn't take very long for Houston to go from being the largest homeless shelter the country has ever seen all the way down to #7 on this list in just a few months. Never has there been more money, clothes, or time given to people in need in US history. I know more people who donated their time than those who didn't. Even though it's no longer the fashionable cause for Hollywood that it was in September, local taxpayers are still footing most of the bill for public education. This just shows how ignorant the ones are who put this list together.

Posted by: slug at January 17, 2006 07:12 PM

Gee. Austin sounds a lot like Flagstaff, AZ (in Coconino Cty. - the only county in Arizona to vote for Gore in 2000.)!

Anyway, I wasn't surprised to see Flagstaff on the list.

Flag is a hard place to live if you don't have a roof over your head. We can go to bed on a March night with a balmy 65 degrees outside - and wake up to a foot of snow on the ground, and a wind-chill in the single digits. And the dry mountain air may be good for one's bronchitis, but unchecked exposure to our high-altitude sun and drying winds is hard on the softer parts of the human body.

Don't move to Flagstaff unless you plan on living in a roofed, insulated structure, folks. Stay put in San Francisco - they pay you to be homeless there!

Posted by: Steve at January 18, 2006 01:59 PM

Flagstaff Mean to Homeless? Letter:

From Feb. 9, 2006 edition, Flagstaff Live:

Flagstaff: not as mean as previously reported

The rural, mountain city of Flagstaff, loves its homeless neighbors. So says a report released by a national homeless rights organization called City Limits.
The report—“Flagstaff: Gateway to the Grand Canyon and Coconino County”—document ways in which local residents and leaders “bend over backwards” to meet the needs of the homeless. City Limits also condemned a recent list released by the National Coalition for the Homeless. The Washington, D.C.-based group branded Flagstaff as being one of the top 10 mean cities in its treatment of homeless people.
“Flagstaff mean to the homeless?” the report said. “Please, give us a break. If anything, we laud the kind souls who live in the northern Arizona community. We laud them because they know the difference between being mean and practicing tough love.”
The authors of the City Limits document went on to explain that some actions by Flagstaff leaders could be viewed as being mean, but that put in context, they were understandable.
“We know the City Council toughened its anti-camping ordinance this fall, effectively making it illegal to sleep inside city limits,” the report said. “But there are perfectly understandable reasons for the action. For instance, street drunks, a subset of the homeless population, are partially responsible for the spike in the property crime rate in Flagstaff.
“And,” the report continued, “recent front-page articles in the Daily Sun indicate meth freaks—our term, not the newspaper’s—add significantly to the rise of property crime in Flagstaff.
“Based on this reality, it’s unfortunate, but understandable that the community rised up to put addicted people in their place—which is either in jail or outside of the city limits.”
City Limits bolstered its point by listing actions taken to mitigate the criminalization of sleeping in public. Homeless people now face the threat of fines and/or jail if they violate the anti-camping ordinance. The list follows:
1. Flagstaff churches have followed the lead of their police department, which gives homeless people free rides to the city limit at night so they can camp legally in adjacent Coconino County. Some of the churches are thinking about meeting homeless campers in the morning to give them a ride back into town.
2. Local Democratic Party activists wait on the other side of the city/county line to hand out voter registration forms. A Democrat explained the mission this way: “We need to register more people so we can remove the mean, right-wing national Republican administration in Washington. Doing this would put caring Democrats in control and help send more money back home so we can invest in needed social programs to address the needs of the poor and homeless, who will always be with us to some extent.”
3. Flagstaff Councilwoman Karen Cooper voted to toughen the anti-camping ordinance in part because she doesn’t want any more homeless people to freeze to death. So she now travels out to the county at night to hand out hot coffee and soup and old cell phones so homeless campers can call 911 if they feel their body parts are freezing.
4. Randy Wilson, editor of the Daily Sun, has restrained his impulse to constantly brand homeless alcoholics street drunks. He has done this even though he correctly argues people who complain about the term are guilty of political correctness.
Wilson has devised a compromise solution by putting the controversial term deeper into articles and editorials, thus reducing the concerns of the overly sensitive but still leaving a bit of a deserved sting for the deviant street drunks to feel, if they are coherent enough to read the newspaper.
5. Progressive local forces are banding together to raise money, and possibly increase taxes, to start a rehab program in the county jail.
This is a good start, according to City Limits, although more needs to be done:
“We trust the good people of Flagstaff and the surrounding county will fund a variety of programs to confront the complex social problem of homelessness. To do otherwise would indicate that Flagstaff is only interested in spending money when it’s connected to punishment.
“We know this won’t happen because Flagstaff is not a mean city. We are confident taxpayers will find a way to create more shelter space and affordable housing. They will also generate sustained funding for a detox center and create job-training programs and a day center where homeless people can gather safely.”

Steve Schneider

Posted by: Steve Schneider at February 14, 2006 02:43 PM