Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Two homeless children broke into an abandoned building and lit a candle that set it on fire, and as it happened six brave fire-fighters died as a result. Dozens of family members were heart-broken, and a whole City shared in the grief. How could the punishment for that action possibly "pay for" what it caused, and still be appropriate to what those children actually did?

If you want to look for fault, why not ask why those children were homeless in the first place.

People forget that there was a time in this country - three decades in fact, the '50's through the '70's - when homelessness was practically unknown. Poor people could always find a room, and get help paying for it. There is no law of God or nature that says "the homeless will always be with us".

But while there are homeless people who need a place to get in out of the cold, and abandoned buildings they can break into, they will get into them - and they will light candles, and make fires to keep warm - and sometimes that will start building fires - and sometimes those fires will kill people.

No threat of possible punishment for something that could possibly happen if they make a mistake that they don't intend to make will stop them.

Now we're closing the PIP Shelter, and there will be even more people with no place to go. There are hundreds of abandoned buildings in the city, and more are being abandoned every week. We have fewer fire-fighters to deal with the fires that wil result, and they have farther to go. So when the next fire comes that takes a fire-fighter's life, whose fault will it be?

Will the blame lie with some homeless child who started it? Or perhaps some broken, homeless old man, who may once have been your fellow worker or your neighbor, but who now is just trying to survive another night?

Or does the blame lie with our failure as a City to deal with these twin disasters of homelessness and building abandonment?
Post a Comment