Occupy: The Homeless of Ann Arbor

December 14, 2011

Political Theory


“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

With a harsh Michigan winter heading our way, people are beginning to yearn for the comfort of a burning fireplace, to crave steaming hot chocolate, and to desire a warm, cozy bed. Though this is ideal, not everyone is afforded this, seemingly inevitable, luxury.

As the great Martin Luther King Jr. said in his quote mentioned above, we should all help one another; specifically in this situation, to enjoy a happy holiday break and reap the benefits of a comfortable winter. In hopes to do so, Occupy Ann Arbor, a new movement of volunteers aimed at helping those throughout Ann Arbor, has begun to advocate for the opening of  a second warming center for the homeless; specifically, a twenty-four hour warming center on 415 W. Washington. In their standpoint, they protest that our dire economic times have forced countless people out of their homes and into the streets, leaving them with no food to eat and no place to live. With this, Occupy Ann Arbor is proposing to fund, run, and open a second warming center in downtown Ann Arbor in hopes to give additional aid to the increased amount of homeless this winter. This group claims that the warming center will be “democratically run by homed and homeless volunteers who would combine their skills, explore their creativity and support and empower each other” (Dearing). Though this is ideal, there have been numerous incidents in the past that argue this. With previous attempts of warming centers run solely by volunteers, the centers have all been ultimately shut down due to fights and providing a place for the homeless to drink and use drugs; the volunteers were seemingly unprepared to handle these sort of centers.

Along with this, it does not seem economically feasible to even consider opening a second warming center. In fact, the city currently does not even have sufficient funds to support the present warming center, let alone a second one. Also, the program is currently run by professional staff, of whom address and fix the underlying problem with the homeless and try to place them into permanent housing, where as this proposal would merely perpetuate the problem and just maintain the homeless, not help them.

With this in mind, everyone can and should sympathize with those who have no comfortable, warm place to stay for the grim winter ahead. However, instead of making the problem worse for both the homeless and the community, by providing insufficient care for the former and a hole in the Ann Arbor’s wallet for the latter, we should take the energy, funds, and support of Occupy Ann Arbor and aim it towards advancing our current warming center. By doing so we can potentially house more people, provide more, and perhaps, better food, and ultimately offer an efficient way to serve those in need throughout this upcoming winter.

Through all of this, Occupy Ann Arbor should definitely be praised for the efforts to help the needy and fight for what is right and altruistic. However, their proposal seems to be a little out of reach economically for the Ann Arbor government to fund and support. With this I question: Do you support Occupy Ann Arbor’s movement to establish a second warming center due to the increase number of homeless, or, do you believe we should instead put forth the same money, time, and energy into our current center to make it even better and more feasible for the homeless? Additionally, how do you think Martin Luther King Jr. would react to this controversy? Would he agree with the Occupy Ann Arbor movement, or would he put his faith in the Ann Arbor government?

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4 Comments on “Occupy: The Homeless of Ann Arbor”

  1. andgoldberg Says:

    I completely understand why people would advocate the funding of a second warming center, especially with how brutal the winter gets to be in Michigan. The homeless are stuck in a frustrating position because there really aren’t many jobs available in this terrible economy.

    I believe that there is a happy medium people can agree on. They should turn the first warming center and what would be used to build the second center into a single center focused on getting the homeless off the streets. Simply housing them won’t help the problem. I personally believe that the more free benefits you give to the homeless, the more inclined they are to stay on the streets. Many people would way rather eat free meals each day, go to a warming center, and get money from begging on the street than working for McDonald’s and trying to pay for rent each month.

    In my opinion, MLK would agree with my idea of a “happy medium.” Society would be able to still help the homeless, but in a more productive way. The idea would actually begin to solve the issue of the growing number of homeless people rather than just provide them with shelter. MLK would have advocated my idea because it tries to make homeless people able to maintain a job, just like everyone else in society.

  2. William Burton Says:

    I think this should be a simple matter of what we think is right or wrong. If there is not enough room in one warming center to meet demand, a second SHOULD be opened. I understand that money issues can be very tricky though.

    In my experience, most homeless people are willing to, and want to work. If the city finds it hard to pay to help the homeless and to also pay the many other things that cities have to pay, why couldn’t a new kind of program be put in place where homeless individuals do some kind of work, be it physical or otherwise to help pay for food and shelter, plus maybe a little extra money to help them get to a point where that system is no longer necessary.

    Anyway, If I were dictator of ann arbor, that’s what I’d do.

  3. Rainyo Says:

    I couldn’t agree more with andgoldberg. Every time a homeless person approaches you and you give them money, you may feel as though you are doing something ‘right’, but by giving money to them, it’s only perpetuating their begging activities instead of trying to lift themselves up from their rut and attempt to obtain a job. The ‘South Park’ episode involving the homeless people walking around like zombies yelling “change?” as funny as it may be, couldn’t be closer to the truth as it is in the episode. I definitely think that if any money is going to be put into the homeless effort in Ann Arbor, the funds should definitely go into the first warming center rather than a new center. andgoldberg hits the nail on the head by saying that extravagant services for the homeless inadvertently enforce the homeless remaining homeless-“Oh, I don’t need a job, I got the center to assist me”. While there should be these food/warming services, if people really wanted to solve the homeless issue, funds would be pumped into psychological services for homeless in order to try and solve psychological issues that may be the root cause for a homeless individual’s homelessness. Plus, having that new center would most definitely provide a safe haven drug usage. While many homeless out there have legitimate reasons for their poverty, there are still homeless people out there who are homeless because they let drugs/alcohol rule their lives. Problem is, there is no way of pinpointing which homeless individual deserves more precedence over another. If the warming center had the ability to sort out who actually deserves a meal and who doesn’t, I would condone the center, but the fact is that it is impossible to sort people without being accused of a degree of bias. So, again, I think the money should go towards psychological services rather than perpetuating the poverty by feeding/housing the homeless because isn’t the main goal to get these people off the streets and into a steady job?

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