My View: Pro-homeless lobby a problem


My View: Pro-homeless lobby a problem


Date: March 15, 2012
by: Rod Thomson | Editor at Large



The homeless are back in the news in downtown Sarasota.

And that’s never good.

But this is becoming more about the so-called “advocates” of the homeless and their rights as it is about the homeless and truly helping them out of homelessness.

I just can’t help but wonder if any of these groups would be so hot on this issue if they did not garner such a huge amount of publicity.

The latest pro-homeless group to register its outrage and treat the city to threats for considering the needs of hard-working residents over piddle places for the homeless is the American Civil Liberties Union.

Apparently, the Sarasota Police Department has begun issuing trespass warnings to people who are hanging out in front of businesses around the Five Points area, along First Street and Central and Lemon avenues. The police act on complaints from business owners.

It’s pretty understandable. Consider if you are operating a restaurant with outdoor seating and homeless people settle down next to your customers’ tables, plopping down whatever belongings they have with them, raising a disturbing cloud of body odor. They will drive away customers. It happens, and merchants working hard to make a living during season have had enough.

For past attempts to get the homeless out of downtown, the city was named the “meanest city” in America by some publicity-hunting goofball homeless organization in D.C. The city has since vanished from the list, but others, including Bradenton, have popped up.

The ACLU claims that some of the sidewalks are publicly owned, and therefore the homeless have a constitutionally protected freedom of speech right to plop down in front of merchants and sleep, reek, urinate, panhandle, etc. Freedom of speech! Yeah, pretty sure that’s what Thomas Jefferson had in mind. The ACLU would be comical if it were not so well funded.

Of course, it makes the front page of the newspaper because it fits the formula. But the plight of merchants — who have gone under during the recession like Jimmy Hoffa in the Detroit River — is not the story. It’s the homeless’ right to offend everyone in their vicinity.

City Attorney Bob Fournier is looking into the public-private status of the sidewalks. But clarifications by Fournier do not get to the root. That is a simple legality.

Groups such as the ACLU and too many “homeless advocates” — who appear indeed to advocate keeping people homeless — offer no solutions to the underlying problems with homelessness.

It’s not like there are no places for the homeless. There are. The Salvation Army is a great one. But it comes with strings — no drunkenness, no drug use and responsible efforts to find work. That won’t do for too many homeless, and with their protectorate of “advocates,” it does not have to.

Homelessness falls into two broad camps: People with mental and emotional conditions who are generally unable to function in our society; and people with drug/alcohol/work ethic problems who will not seek help and stay helped. A smaller group are those who have truly fallen on a stretch of bad luck, but those are usually in shelters or with friends or family — not panhandling, sleeping and urinating on downtown streets.

People who are not able to function in society should be placed in facilities to help care for them. It is no act of love to leave a mentally dysfunctional adult to the streets and call it free speech. In fact, it is an act of rotteness.

And the rest of the homeless need a big dose of tough love, which would mean tougher laws and requirements placed on them. And that, we know, would raise the ire of the “advocates” whose actions help maintain homeless peoples’ status as homeless.

Rod Thomson can be reached at


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Currently 6 Responses

  • 1.
  • Linda Gaines,

    The homeless people in downtown are the same homeless people I've been seeing in Sarasota for years. They are not children and they're not families.

    If we're going to have a debate about the problem of homeless let's have a reality based debate and no one of full of talking points from special interest groups.
  • Michael Henshaw
    Wed 28th Mar 2012
    at 4:43pm
  • 2.
  • I don’t know whether you are a very naïve person or you are simply misinformed and have not done any research on the subject of being homeless. 40% of the homeless are families and that percentage is growing. In Manatee County there are over 1700 documented school age children who are homeless. That does not count younger children or young adults 16 and over who are not in the school system. By denying help to the homeless now we will have an even larger bill to pay in the future. Yes 15% of the homeless have drug problems and yes another small % are mentally ill. Why not find out the percentage of these people who are homeless and are now in our jails because our jails have become our sanitariums and hospitals for these people. You cannot just think that we can ignore these people and families and we will not have to pay a cost in the end because they are not going away. Being ignorant of the real facts does not justify making statements without delving into the causes of homelessness and what can be done to deal with it . Wishing it to go away or go somewhere else will not work either.
  • Linda Gaines
    Fri 23rd Mar 2012
    at 12:28pm
  • 3.
  • Often, I whole-heartedly disagree with you...this time, not so much! The old Publix building at Ringling Shopping Center is vacant and in the shadow of the new police department. Perhaps the ACLU and Publix can get together - the ACLU's money and man-power and Publix's support, with corporate dollars as a tax deduction and philanthropic advertising as a win-win.
  • Dan Christian
    Mon 19th Mar 2012
    at 9:03pm
  • 4.
  • They missed their chance with the old police station. Next big building that goes vacant gets to be the undeserving poor's flophouse. The ACLU can serve the meals and clean the toilets.
  • Pete Theisen
    Fri 16th Mar 2012
    at 6:09pm
  • 5.
  • After businesses abandon Main St. due to the town's antagonistic policies, it will become the refuge of the ner-do well homeless. Then the ACLU will revel in a dead zone of their making. Hot damn! What a civil accomplishment. As I've said before, if I owned a business on Main St. or its environs, I would terminate my lease and move to a friendly place like Southgate Mall.
  • Milan Adrian
    Thu 15th Mar 2012
    at 11:04pm
  • 6.
  • Once again, a great piece. You've hit all the nails on the head that I've been preaching for years. Keep up the good work.
  • Milan Adrian
    Thu 15th Mar 2012
    at 4:22pm
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