Feed city’s homeless, don’t condemn them

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 8/7/03

EQUAL TIME

Feed city’s homeless, don’t condemn them

By ED LORING

Woodruff Park is sacred ground in the center of our beloved city.

For too long, Woodruff Park has been contested space. The business community, Georgia State University and several mayors have worked to frighten downtown workers and now suburbanites who are moving downtown seeking an atmosphere like the sterile mall from which they have come.

No one in a position of power and prestige has had the courage to admit we are faced with an endless dilemma until the homeless are housed. Instead, we criminalize the poor and send them to jail or wandering endlessly to nowhere. It is time to face the truth or Atlanta is going to die, from downtown to the intown neighborhoods.

Many police are tired of spending their adult lives waking up those who have no place to sleep. This newspaper ridicules Judge Howard Johnson for his resistance to criminalizing homelessness.

Atlanta-Journal Constitution columnist Colin Campbell supports the police who want to undercut the power of judges who disagree with them; this foreshadows deep wounds to the democratic way of life by ignoring and subverting the separation of powers.

Now Mayor Shirley Franklin has, not by law but by executive order, said we cannot feed the hungry in Woodruff Park because it’s a health hazard. She brought Horace Sibley, chairman of the Homeless Commission, to side with her. The Fulton County Health Department is her foil.

Surely she stayed up late thinking this one up. She should have helped us with our sewage system, which spills human feces into our creeks and rivers and creates health hazards.

The powers that be are being dishonest. Not having a house is a health hazard. We welcome the hungry and feed them any and everywhere we can, Woodruff Park included.

Many more mothers will lose children from starvation and malnutrition if we continue on the course the mayor and the AJC prescribe for us.

Two things increase in value when you step on them: Persian rugs and the Church of Jesus Christ. Many of those who are feeding in the parks are saying that no mayor or newspaper can stop us.

Like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Montgomery, we will defy the executive order, defend democracy and seek justice in the park that is for all of us, rich and poor alike.

[Ed Loring, a Presbyterian minister, is a founding partner of Open Door Community, a downtown ministry to the poor and homeless.]