Homeless people get arrested every day for sleeping or sitting on public property. They can't pay the fines, so they stay in prison. Who ever decided this was a good system? Prisons cost the public far more than homeless shelters do!
Nationally, some work has been done to decriminalize poverty. Allowances are made for homeless people. It's easier for businesses to donate food without incurring liability. Bankruptcy is reasonably easy when financial circumstances change suddenly. But local governments are still struggling, especially with homelessness. San Francisco felt the need to relocate truckloads of homeless folks so they wouldn't impact visitors for the Super Bowl. San Diego seems to think that arresting homeless people will reduce the number who move into the area, or the number of people who "choose to be homeless." Seriously?
In some cities, it's illegal to put up a tent. Others don't allow sleeping in public. Some don't allow vagrants to sit for more than a few minutes on public benches. Some cities don't allow the public distribution of free food. Now I read that in some places, it's illegal to engage a homeless person in conversation!
Portland struggles with the desire to allow people to live as best they can without traditional shelter, while the business community demands government intervention to keep street people from degrading their storefronts or interfering with neighborhood ambiance. Business people aren't all cold-hearted, but they do have a vested interest in clean streets that attract affluent shoppers. And Portland is dependent on taxes from businesses, since we have no sales tax here. It's legal to feed homeless people here, but only if you're a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. As one of these, I'm finding Portlanders to be extremely generous.
Some cities are finding solutions in tiny house communities. I wish we had one here! They build whole neighborhoods, complete with utilities, food resources, and small shops. Wouldn't it be awesome to run a free diner in a place like that?! There is a tremendous amount of publicly owned property, and cities are finding that building these homes costs less, in the long run, than allowing people to remain homeless.
We've taken some positive strides in our attitudes toward our poor population, especially since the Great Recession. Let's take some more. Let's hold the disadvantaged, shunned, marginalized, lonely poor people in our hearts as warmly as we hold our friends. Let's recognize their humanity, their intelligence and gifts and ability to contribute to society. Let's be careful not to think of a poor person as a problem, but as a person WITH a problem, and there isn't a problem we can't solve, if we just work together.