This is the kind of elitism that is hard to let pass. This is what you would call NIMBYism. The Hillmead area in Bethesda, MD seems to be allergic to housing for the homeless. Back in my town of Greenburgh, NY we have the same problem (I now live in Arlington, VA it may be there too but haven’t seen it yet). The more well-to-do are always afraid of allowing low income elements in to cast shadows on their well manicured lawns. In Greenburgh I even recall fights over approving the zoning changes to allow state funded health clinics to be present for fear that drug addicts would roam free and do harm. That hasn’t happened but what has happened is that the low income have access to more affordable health care and maybe some drug addicts are getting help too! Also, thanks to the Greenburgh police things are normal.
Now back to the main issue of affordable housing, homeless housing or even homeless shelters. Here is the news that the elite, as liberal as they may be, in Montgomery County or elsewhere must realize; and that is that these places have to go somewhere. We must resist the temptation to create gated communities where the rich or middle class hide from the poor.
As a society we have to realize that it’s indeed true that “we’re all in this together”. Not every homeless person or “low income” person is a threat to your high property tax abode. They deserve a chance too. Of course there is the likely hood that some of these individuals may harbor criminal intent or are not psychologically intact. This is why we need professional staff at the facilities that serve this constituency or law enforcement keeping a lookout on the areas where the housing would be placed. Or even better, there should be no segmentation at all. Then law enforcement would just patrol and be vigilant everywhere. I think mixed-income neighborhoods are the best way to go.
I remember in White Plains, NY not too long ago a woman was killed by a homeless person who was let out of a homeless shelter and was allowed to roam free. The person was mentally ill. It is a tragedy that this happened but why are we letting it happen? It appears that the shelter houses people for the night then releases them in the morning. The homeless then roam around the surrounding area and wait to go back for the night. You can often spot them in the library, bookstore or shopping malls passing time. Now why can’t there be programs created to address these issues? Let’s say there’s a homeless person who is also suffering from a mental illness; why would we cut that person loose? Even for the homeless people who are mentally sound; why aren’t we providing them with opportunities (education, jobs) that will occupy their time and lift themselves out of poverty?
Personally, I’m from a low income area in the Bronx. That was where I was born and that’s where I grew up. Eventually by the time I was 18 in 1997 my mother saved up and moved us to Greenburgh, NY so that we could have a better life and more opportunity. It has most surely worked and I thank her for doing this. I also thank the neighbors and the coop board of our apartment building in Hartsdale, NY for seeing not the area where we came from but who we were as people. Spending the very early years of my adult life there (I’m only 29) provided me with the platform to get me where I am now. The education I received from the Greenburgh Central 7 school system led me to have the interests and be the person I am today. Also, the neighborhood I live in is a great place with good people (where I live in Arlington Village now is just as nice by the way).
In the end acting like the people on my coop board is what Bethesda has to do, that’s what we all have to do. What’s interesting about the Hillmead issue in Bethesda is that they already have a homeless shelter in the neighborhood and the world hasn’t come to an end. If they wake up the world may actually improve just a little.