This is a response to the Hannah Brooks Olsen posting:

“Please Admit You Don’t Like Poor People So We Can Move On” @mshannabrooks


This whole article misses the point: people don’t hate or even dislike the poor in general, but they don’t feel the poor should get to intrude on their lives or ruin their neighborhoods. The whole framing of the issue as a disembodied like-dislike bias against the poor is out-of-touch with reality on the streets.

Some interactions:

  • A young woman just a few months into her first job after college is accosted at the corner every other day when she walks to work in city on the West coast . A homeless man often shouts obscenities and approaches her trying to fondle her. She walks two blocks out of her way to avoid him.
  • A mother pushes a stroller past a park and playground and won’t let her child near the jungle gym and slides. The ground is littered with needles and drug paraphernalia and human excrement and the air reeks with foul odors.
  • A man dressed in a business suit boards a subway car and is soon harangued by an aggressive panhandler. He says no, jumps out at the next stop, and moves to another car.
  • A corner convenience store manager goes outside to chase away a delirious man who is shouting at potential customers while taking off his clothes.

Scenes like these and worse repeat themselves in endless variation in many of our cities.The homeless need to be given a safe place to sleep, clean bathrooms, and secure showers. They should not be allowed to trash every public facility, nor to bother others at will. Our parks, playgrounds, and train stations should be kept as clean and safe as possible.

The goal of maintaining the quality of life is nothing to apologize for. It’s also a practical priority. You can castigate the relatively well-off for hating the poor, but if the government can’t keep the streets safe and clean, those that have the means will move away. Then you are left with a city of poor people that is utterly trashed. It will be very hard to fix it with no one left to tax.

It is not just about money or liking the poor. There are lots of people on the street who are poor because they are drug addicts or have other serious mental health issues. We closed most mental health institutions years ago.It looks like we went too far. Some of the poor now need mental health treatment more than anything else.

This whole emphasis on discovering whether people really dislike the poor or not is fundamentally misguided. The question is what can be done from a public policy perspective to help the poor while maintaining a good quality of life for everyone.

Mathematician, Statistician, Businessman, and Academic. Student of history, poli sci , and the Bible.

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