In “Ending Homelessness in Santa Monica,” authored by the Urban Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C., a “big stick” approach is advocated, using the threat of increased incarceration as the prod. “As things stand now," states the report, “the only ‘or else’ that the court will have, as it urges homeless people to ‘cooperate, or else,’ is a relatively short stay in jail. We believe it will need a stronger ‘or else’ to make a real dent; changing the jail could supply that strength.”
This brings us to the spectre of Army Regulation 210-35. Drafted into law in 1997 and revised in 2005, 210-35 calls for the setting up of “civilian inmate labor camps” on military bases. There has been much buzz, mostly on the internet, concerning closed military bases being reconfigured as “concentration camps.” The fact is that 210-35 reveals who the denizens of these forced labor camps will be. Section 3-5 (a) (6) states that the camps should be set up in compliance with the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. This was enacted under the administration of Ronald Reagan, in 1987.
The Army Regulation goes on to mitigate any sort of press coverage of activities or inmates, and chillingly states that if inmate deaths occur, the host agency will not be held responsible.
In an interview last fall with Danielle Noble of the Homeless Liaison office in Santa Monica, Noble explicitly denied any knowledge of 210-35. “We have enough trouble getting the homeless into regular housing,” she said. “Why would we put them in concentration camps?”
I guess I have some questions, too. Why would someone be arrested for shaving in a public restroom? Why would the City of Santa Monica put forward $476, 237 (estimated costs for one year pilot Homeless Court ), which admittedly served only eighty-two people in a one year span of time, when it would cost less to simply house these individuals?
And why is the legal system being altered to criminalize poverty? Why does the Urban Institute advocate “changing the jail” to “make a dent” on homelessness? And why in the world does the Army now have in place plans to place homeless people in forced labor camps?
The poor are always with us, or so stated the Bible. Maybe the U.S. Government has made different plans.
Homeless No More