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OPINION: City targets unhoused community

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Despite temperatures in the 90’s and the danger and noise of passing trains, unhoused Riversidians have set up tent encampents along the train tracks near Tyler and Indiana in Riverside California on Jun. 11. (Stephen Day | Raincross Gazette)
By Zach Reynosa

Homelessness is in fact a crime but not one committed by human beings trying to survive, but a crime of violence committed by the state which the city is not even trying to remotely hide.

The war on homelessness rages on in Riverside.

 On Oct 4. Riverside City Council had voted 6-1 to ban camping at the Santa Ana River bottom.

With more than 3,000 people currently residing at the river, 60% of them unsheltered, the city’s decision shows they deem being homeless a crime.

The goal of the ban is at least admirable in its moral goals, to decrease the amount of wildfires near the river to protect the homeless and anybody living nearby.

Yet the first to be removed from the area are ones that live next to houses along the river. The city prioritizes property above human beings whose needs are not being dealt with.

The ban also brings up concerns about whether or not Riverside has enough resources to house those taking up shelter near the river. At least Ward 2 City Council Member Clarissa Cervantes was able to detect this issue and stood as the lone vote against the ban.

The city stated that those who are affected by the ban could enroll in the Riverside County Partnership for the Homeless Outreach Meditation and Education Program. However, for those who have a criminal record, the court will determine eligibility. Only those with non-violent, low level crimes will be admitted.

This eliminates any hope of rehabilitation for anyone else even after being arrested for trying to survive.

The city uses this program as a safeguard for those wrongfully discriminating the homeless rather than providing aid. 

This ban is a prime example of the city enforcing its “homelessness is a crime” stance while actively disregarding ways that could prevent homlessness in the first place.

With an economic crash growing closer and closer the prevention of homelessness must be a major priority.

We as a community have seen what COVID-19 has done to the economic standing of millions of people throughout the country and even in our own home. COVID was a clear indication that when the system is put under pressure only the 99% experience the true force of economic downturn while the 1% takes advantage of our desperation and aggressively continues to make profits no matter the cost.

This dangerous mindset puts more and more people out of their homes and out on the streets where they are deemed as “invaluable” to society and looked upon as a parasite.

These people choose to set up near the river so they can be out of sight and have the choice to sleep somewhere other than some park bench or some bus stop. This is a space where they can settle down and not be constantly harassed by ignorant bystanders or, even worse, the police.

The ban will only provide a new influx of people finding new places to set up their temporary shelters where they will surely face more discrimination for years to come.

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