The National Coalition for the Homeless has issued its top 20 list for the meanest cities in the United States based on how they treat the homeless. The cities are as large as Dallas, TX and as small as Lawrence, Kansas.
Sarasota, FL, which has the dubious distinction of being number one because of its ban on sleeping outside overnight, says that the ban actually protects the homeless from unsafe and unhealthy places. If a person violates the law, the police have the option of taking the person to a shelter or to jail.
While no community wants to think of itself as mean, there is a larger issue here. There are no exact numbers on the homeless population but the estimate is that on any given day between two and three million people are homeless. The causes are many and varied and the tragedy of the situation shows all kinds of faces—many very young. What we need is a Top 20 list of the communities that have found the most innovative, caring solutions to the problem. In the meantime, I hope that the 20 who made the "meanest" list this year will take a hard look at their policies and their priorities.
For more on addressing the problems underlying homelessness visit the homelessness section of our companion website Solutions for America.