Women mayors show some steel in the fight against homelessness
Ariel Sharon earned the nickname ??the bulldozer?? for his general unstoppability and for his use of the earth-moving tractor as a weapon of war and plow of peace.
Make an offer now to take over the ??bulldozer?? The nickname for Sharon, who died in 2014, is Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. She sent front-end loaders and excavators earlier this month to clean up a homeless encampment which has come to symbolize urban disorder.
In November, when Ms Wu was elected mayor at age 36, The New York Times wrote of “her plan to make the city a laboratory of progressive politics, the kind she studied under her mentor, the Senator Elizabeth Warren”.
A few months later, Ms. Wu sent heavy equipment on a cold morning to get rid of the tents and all the belongings left inside. It gave an unmistakable first impression that she would face urban misery not just with compassion but with steel.
It was a compelling but also revealing picture of the state of contemporary urban politics. With Republicans in such a minority in many cities that they’re barely relevant, it’s up to liberal Democrats to defend urban public spaces.
It’s not just Ms. Wu.
In Washington, DC, in October, Mayor Muriel Bowser ?? another female democrat and person of color?? sent heavy equipment to clear a homeless encampment. The town’s deputy mayor for health and human services, Wayne Turnage, conceded that “unfortunately” a town worker who was operating a piece of heavy equipment had cleaned a tent while a living human was was still inside.
In December 2021, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan?? another female Democrat?? sent in garbage trucks and workers wielding rakes and pitchforks to clean up a homeless encampment at Ballard Commons Park.
In Asheville, North Carolina, another female Democratic mayor, Esther Manheimer, allegedly dealt with a homeless encampment in Pritchard Park in part by sending a city excavator to scrape the ground, loading the remains of the camp into a truck. tipper, ?? reported the Asheville Citizen-Times.
If white male Republican mayors were the ones sending in Bobcats, skid steers, garbage trucks, and bulldozers to dislodge the homeless, we would never hear the end of it. Even if it happened during a Republican presidency, there would be complaints about how it was a sign of growing cruelty and callous indifference to the plight of the poor.
Some of these complaints are now being voiced. In Boston, WBUR quoted the executive director of the nonprofit Material Relief and Advocacy Program, Cassie Hurd, as blaming the city for police presence during the cleanup operation. “There was no need to create this kind of crisis which is traumatic for people and to force people to take shelter,” he added. she said.
In Washington, DC, a statement from The Way Home DC, a coalition of advocacy and social service organizations, said: “Laws and administrative practices that criminalize homelessness and poverty, such as no camping in public spaces, must be repealed. Until that happens, DC must stop enforcing these unjust laws.
The statement continued, “The forced dispersal of encampments will destroy communities, criminalize homelessness and push people into different encampments or other hard-to-locate places, making it difficult for them to connect to services.”
Such objections, however, don’t get much traction. It may be a matter of partisanship. However, people may recognize the underlying reality.
Even liberals around the country realize that there is nothing particularly compassionate, humane, or progressive about allowing parks, sidewalks, parking lots, or schoolyards to be colonized by people who, in many cases, suffer from drug addiction or other health problems.
Such encampments are terrible for neighbors, who in many cases are middle-class business owners, residents, or even nonprofits. At one point, a Boston Food Bank executive was heard on public radio complaining that the Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard homeless encampment made it difficult for volunteers and workers to get to the warehouse used to distribute food to the city. .
Such encampments are also terrible for the people who live there. It’s hard to get out of poverty or be healthier if you live in a tent without mail, electricity or plumbing.
In most cases, the mayors preceded the bulldozers with advocacy and housing offers. In Boston, Ms. Wu emphasized that her effort will be long-term, not just a one-day video hit.
As Ariel Sharon understood, it’s easier to get things done once you have a reputation as a bulldozer?? or to be ready to use one, if that’s the tool the situation calls for.
Image: Tented homeless encampment near Union Station in Washington, DC, January 6, 2022. Elvert Barnes Photography/Wikimedia Commons