Jewish World Review Nov. 25, 2002 / 15 Kislev, 5763

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

Only in America | What a world we live in! New York City officials are considering housing the city's tens of thousands of homeless people on "retired cruise ships." The ships are currently harbored in the Bahamas and the officials have been flown there on Mayor Bloomberg's private jet to check out the ships. New York City's homelessness is at an all time high with at least 36,000 people sleeping in shelters every night. The city is legally bound to provide free shelter to anyone who says they have no place to live. That's the law.

It's no secret that the vast majority of "homeless" people are either drug addicts, alcoholics or mental cases -- or some sort of combination of the three. Thanks to the ACLU and other "civil rights groups" the city cannot forcibly get these sick people off the streets and into treatment centers where they might actually be helped. Many of them don't even realize that they need help. Some simply refuse to be helped. And others are so nuts that they would just rather sleep in the gutter than in a bed.

These pathetic individuals must be forced into coercive treatment facilities for their own good. But rounding them up and putting them in hospitals, mental institutions, or treatment centers would cause an outcry from liberal special interest groups who really do not have the interests of the sick street people at heart. Civil rights attorneys would slap lawsuits against any city that attempted such a thing.

So, America's derelicts -- the insane, the drug addicted and the alcoholic -- must be allowed their freedom to roam city streets, sleeping in the doorways of churches and private stores, defecating in public, vomiting on sidewalks, panhandling and screaming at passersby to their hearts content -- and the city is REQUIRED BY LAW to provide places for them to stay at night -- even if it means buying cruise ships to house them in. Isn't that nice? You've heard of a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. Now we'll have an imbecile or addict in every stateroom -- supported by all the rest of us imbeciles who pay taxes.

Once upon a time people who had no job and lived on the street used to be called bums or tramps. Some bums were drunks, other bums were drug addicts and the tramps were just shiftless hoboes. The insane used to be in put away in asylums where they couldn't hurt anybody or themselves, and be treated by doctors. There used to be vagrancy laws. Drunks and other bums would be taken off the street. Some would be jailed and "dried out" and some would be confined to clinics that could treat their addictions. It may not have worked in every case, but some people got better because of it. At least society was TRYING to help those wretched souls by forcing them into treatment. Now all we do is house them for the night. Government supported flophouses.

There have always been private charitable organizations like The Salvation Army and religious outreach groups that feed, clothe and provide shelter to needy people. They usually attempt to nourish the mind and spirit as well as the body of those they help. These groups are generally manned by volunteers who honestly care about their fellow human beings. These groups do a public service that is both noble and necessary and they should be congratulated and supported in their efforts. In short, they know what they're doing and they do it well.

If the city, state and federal governments are not allowed to forcibly put people needing treatment in the proper treatment facilities, then government should get out of the "homeless" business altogether and leave it to those private organizations which are committed to not only giving people a place to sleep, but the will to help themselves out of their lives of desperation. It doesn't do anyone any good to give mental patients and drug addicts an incentive to keep out of the main stream and stay on the streets. Staterooms on cruise ships might sound nice, but in the long run all it does is turn sick street people into sick boat people.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2001 Greg Crosby