Not to be outdone by the Tampa Tribune's editorial smooching of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker for his handling of the homeless problem in his city, the St. Petersburg Times today handed over a huge chunk of its op-ed real estate to Baker so he could make his case directly to the readers.
Sensing the bad PR of running homeless folks out of the makeshift Tent City that popped up over the past few weeks, Baker defended his decision to close it down on the grounds that shelter without responsibility is a magnet for more homeless in his city:
In the two weeks after the illegal tent city opened downtown, our
overall downtown homeless count saw a 30 percent increase, and the
prospects for it growing were significant. This week, city and county
officials, along with social workers, are meeting with the remaining
individuals at the tent city to identify alternative arrangements for
those who are willing to work toward independence.
Homeless advocates have long argued that Baker's St. Pete is insensitive to those who don't have a place to live. Their struggles were detailed in Alex Pickett's recent CL cover story. Baker's op-ed piece, however, smacked down those who would give the homeless an impromptu handout or food in the park downtown:
It may seem like an easy way to make yourself feel better when you
provide food in Williams Park, give a dollar to a panhandler or toss a
tent out your window, but the reality is that these acts do nothing to
move someone toward independence.
I seem to remember something about Jesus telling his apostles that "that which you neglect to do for the least" of us you neglect to do for him. But I can't find the verse.