Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Reverse New Deal: Threatening people who help the homeless

(Click on images & photos to enlarge) 

(Public domain image, courtesy of openclipart.)

On September 5th, 2013, it was reported that people attempting to feed the homeless in certain parts of Raleigh, North Carolina (and other cities) were being threatened with arrest (see "More Cities Sweeping Homeless Into Less Prominent Areas," National Public Radio). As if widening income inequality, high unemployment, and stagnant--or dropping--middle-class wages were not bad enough, now we're going to ask law enforcement to threaten people who try to help those who have fallen on hard times? Wow. 

Isn't there a better way to deal with the problem of homelessness? 

Actually, yes, there is, and the proof lies in a cemetery on the south end of Roanoke Island, North Carolina. Homeless men were given jobs in the WPA, during the New Deal era, working for the National Park Service. They performed a variety of work, including erosion control, reducing fire hazards, improving buildings, creating trails, & planting grasses, shrubs, and trees. According to information from a long-time resident of Manteo, North Carolina, it seems that the homeless men lived in a work camp by Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, closer to the north end of Roanoke Island. 

(Mr. William Bastian passed away while employed in the WPA. Mr. Bastian was homeless, but he worked for his country and he mattered.

Today, we make little or no effort to give the homeless work, food, and shelter. Instead, we demonize them, call them "worthless," look for ways to dispose of them (e.g., having law enforcement drive them out of populated areas and dropping them off miles away, so they are out-of-sight, out-of-mind), and now we're even arresting people who try to help them.

Welcome to the Reverse New Deal: Threatening people who help the homeless.

(Mr. John R.  Beeton passed away while employed in the WPA. Mr. Beeton was homeless, but he worked for his country and he mattered.)

(The headstone of Mr. Robert Shultze has fallen over. Interestingly, the WPA worked on many cemeteries across the country. Among other chores, they reset headstones. It's too bad we don't have WPA today, to reset Mr. Shultze's headstone.

(There are at least 16 other WPA workers buried in this cemetery on Roanoke Island. The memorial stone--above--reads, "These are the graves of homeless men who died in work camps while employed by the Department of the Interior, National Park Service, on beach erosion control work in the counties of Dare, Hyde and Currituck, 1936-1941.")

(WPA project card--from the National Archives--showing the type of work performed in and around the shoreline of North Carolina. Between the CCC and the WPA, North Carolina received New Deal shoreline work from 1934 to 1942.)

(Continuation of project card.)

All photos in this blog post by Brent McKee.

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