The US Government's Oppression of the Poor, Homeless, and Orphaned

By Rev. Rebecca

The United States is far from being a "righteous" nation. Many people do not realize how much we as a nation oppress the poor, weak, homeless, and strangers among us. Additionally, most Americans are willfully ignorant to the oppression we cause overseas in poor nations with our consumeristic, capitalistic, and wealthy lifestyles.

Many of our laws are set up to favor the middle and upper classes and oppress the lower and homeless classes in the United States. I believe our nation is very guilty of the Old Testament prophetic charges against nations who oppress the poor and orphaned. Having worked for years with homeless children and youth (most of whom are homeless because they were abandoned or abused severely), I have seen the way our nation's laws oppress them.

For example, it is illegal in many US cities to be homeless. This means, as a homeless person, you can be arrested for any reason anywhere, simply because you have no home address. This gives businesses and anyone the right to call the police and have a homeless person removed or arrested simply for being somewhere they don't want them to be (even because you don't like how they smell!). This includes all public and private places. Most middle and upper class folks have absolutely no sense of their human rights being taken away to such a radical degree...they can't even fathom it.

For people who think that "homeless shelters" are the answer, please understand that most all shelters are only open at night and there are only enough shelters to house a very small percentage of homeless on any given night. This means the majority of homeless have to go "somewhere" to sleep/keep warm but are always in danger of being berated, removed, or arrested simply for being there. I could recount for days the stories of homeless youths who tried to hide in parks or buildings because they were so exhausted and in need of sleep, only to be berated, beaten, or arrested for sleeping in a public/private locations. They are treated as less than human beings simply because they are homeless. There is nowhere for them to go.

Another law which is common in most US cities outlaws sitting or "loitering" on sidewalks in the city. Spokane, WA is a city who enforces this law diligently. Do you know the purpose of the law? It is to primarily to prevent homeless youths from sitting or panhandling on the sidewalks (panhandling is illegal). However, most homeless youths have no other way of getting food and money (and nowhere else to go during the day)...they have to go somewhere and so they go where the people are to seek aid. However, businesses complain that it is bad for business to have homeless around and suburban shoppers complain that they don't like "seeing" homeless this law is enacted. However, I can assure you that if you are dressed well, this law will never be enforced. Middle and upper class youth wearing the latest from the Gap will never be berated, beaten, or arrested for sitting on the sidewalks. But if you look homeless, you will. I have witnessed police and security kick and beat homeless youths for sitting on the sidewalk on numerous occasions. Having homeless around is "bad" for commercial industries and apparently insults middle and upper class sensibilities. Just because I was with homeless youths, police have threatened to beat me too. This is not uncommon...this happens in some form in every US city and goes totally unnoticed. Sadly, our nation does not look out for the poor and orphaned.

Back to Writings