Monday, June 27, 2011

Passing the buck on HOMELESSNESS pt1

Last week ABC24 ran a story about the ramifications of the Panhandling zones created by the Memphis City Council in April of 2010. You can view that article by clicking on the link HERE

Go ahead...i'll wait.

Now if you have been to this blog before or in anyway know me you will already know that The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center opposed passage of this law a year ago and in turn offered what we saw as a more moral, human and viable alternative. If you would like the back ground you can read about that here and here


...Now my point today is not to rehash the particulars of that debate persay..more to the point... Isn't it odd that when special interest want the Council to pass unconstitutional laws the panhandlers all become "con artists". Yet when we talk about mental health and substance abuse treatment for those who panhandle...all of a sudden they become "homeless" and the buck gets passed to the Mayor's plan to end homelessness?

Mr. Collins with respect is not being truthful here.

In the ABC24 story above it is mentioned that the City Council also voted to commission a special task force authorizing then City Council chair Harold Collins to convene a meeting with mental health, substance abuse and criminal justice shareholders to look at ways of effectively curbing Aggressive panhandling via treatment as opposed to counter productive and EXPENSIVE incarceration and Law Enforcement manpower hours.

Yet this body as the article above shows has never met....

But it's far worse than that..... For one... Mayor Wharton launched his Task force to End Homelessness...the same task force that I and MSPJC staff worked on as members ...MONTHS before the Council even took up the Panhandling issue. True, the media kickoff happened in late April but everyone involved knew that it was in the works and I had gone to early meetings as far back as Jan 2010....

So, Mr Collins assertion that the Mayor announced it just weeks later is misleading...and he was well aware of that..afterall Harold Collins himself is listed as a member of the Mayor's Task force to End Homelessness....tho I never saw him at any of the meetings or events....but in fairness...maybe there's a reasonable explanation for that.

TWO. Last year I met with Mr. Collins several times which his staff can verify and explained to him that the Mayor's plan was speaking to the issue of homelessness..but our initiative with the council was about mental health screening and diversion options for substance abuse for panhandlers arrested at 201 Poplar. At our last conversation..which was in AUGUST 2010, Mr Collins was no longer using the canard of not wanting to duplicate efforts..but at that time was citing slow action on the part of Judges at 201 Poplar as the hold up.

He then tried to pass us off on Councilman Kemp Conrad who at that time had a task force as well...which also was not or may never have met. Never got a clear response on that. Still it matters little as it was Harold Collins...not Kemp Conrad who has the responsibility to oversee this process as Council Chairman as outlined in the original resolution.

Our Alternative plan was seeking to have all "homeless related crimes" panhandling, trespassing, public urination, loitering, climbing on a municipal structure..etc..sent to a single designated division of General Sessions Court so these cases could be handled consistently.

The outlier "con artist" could be consistently prosecuted and those with mental health, addiction or homelessness issues could be diverted into existing services.
Thus saving jail costs and reducing aggressive panhandling in a effective and humane manner.

As Mr. Collins WORKS in the D.A.'s office he knows full well what our intentions were..in fact we presented the council with a power point of our plan..which led to Councilman Joe Brown sponsoring the creation of the Council's task force in the first place. All of this is in the Council record...and that alternative proposal Document we submitted is in the Commercial Appeal article i linked above...


THREE. Even if Councilman Collins is sincere in his belief that this is better handled by the Mayor's task force....which again..I sat on......if he really believes that...then why did he ignore our request for better funding of said plan? So a year down the tubes and only $250.000 in local funding...for homelessness..


So.....Who believes that Councilman Collins is being upfront here?

With all due respect to the man....who like myself is a former graduate of Memphis Catholic...I don't,i'm sorry but I do not believe you are being truthful here.

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