By Frank Fourchalk
There’s a segment of our population that has become more evident than ever before. Seeing these individuals lying on bus stop benches, pushing their worldly possessions in rusty old shopping carts or sleeping in their car is disturbing to say the least. I’m talking of course about the homeless.
It’s not just about the 50 to 70 year old male with dirty tattered clothes, a long grayish beard and a weather-beaten sack hanging over his shoulder resembling a Santa Claus gone bad. I’m unfortunately referring to families with children that nationally make up approximately 40% of thehomeless population.
The primary causes of homelessness are lack of affordable housing, poverty, and domestic violence which incidentally accounts for 35% of the cases. Here’s a startling statistic, the typical homeless family in the United States and Canada is composed of a single mother, about thirty years old, with between two and three children. There are many crimes which attract the young homeless as means of survival. One of which consists of stealing and selling stolen goods attained through burglaries. These desperate thieves often arm themselves with weapons such as broken glass, razor blades, knives and even hammers as part of their survival kit. Unfortunately this extremely complex social problem can’t help but impact the quality of life in our communities. Knowing how to deal with the criminal element in this multi-faceted social issue is extremely important. Remember to stay rational, don’t let criminals slip under the radar by playing the unfortunate card.
We must not overlook the laws by allowing compassion to win over common sense. Laws were written for everybody to obey, including the homeless. If their activities become unlawful, it is our duty as citizens to notify the police. This is essential if we want to support a healthy and safe community for our families to live in. Homeless people are usually drawn to areas that provide shelter, water, clothing and food. This could be a commercial or residential location depending on the demographics. It’s a natural feeling to want to help a homeless person by handing them money, however it is advised not to give any money or food to a stranger regardless of their appearance. You could be inviting a criminal into your life exposing you or your family to a potential dangerous situation. Don’t let your heart of gold grant a homeless person the privilege of camping on your property for the night. This is not advisable as a one night stay usually turns into a permanent location to store shopping carts, bedding or personal belongings on your property. Some good security enhancements to discourage unwanted visitors to your home or business can be attained by restricting access to overhangs, alcoves or other areas protected from inclement weather. Turn off water or remove handles from outside water spouts. Make sure that all garbage cans are locked in secured receptacles. Install motion lighting around the problem area and make sure that all shrubs and bushes are trimmed back or removed to open up sight lines to your home or business. Being homeless is not a crime. I prefer to judge a person on their actions as opposed to their appearance. However if we want to keep our communities safe we must be aware that the homeless are not exempt from the criminal element.