I had a good friend who was living in New York City during the Democratic National Convention of 1980. One of the stories she told from her many years of living in the Big Apple was the city's method for dealing with its burgeoning homeless population during that week when the world's news cameras gathered there to watch the Democrats convene. Apparently, according to my friend, the city brought in buses and forced the homeless men, women, and children onto those buses - after which they were driven out into the countryside and dumped. By the time the rag-tag army began making its way back to the familiar streets of New York, the Democrats and the news crews had packed up and gone home.
It was an outrageous abuse of human rights. At that time, more than thirty years before all of those young Saudi Arabians attacked the city and took down the World Trade Center, no one even considered using the excuse of security or preventing terrorism. The city just packed them up and removed them. The only political party in the United States (even then) with a semblance of a moral compass was denied the opportunity to rub shoulders with society's wretched refuse.
Now a similar story is emerging from Philadelphia - the home of next summer's Democratic National Convention. This week Pope Francis traveled to Philadelphia shortly after having lunch with the homeless of Washington, DC (rather than with members of Congress). Francis, who repeatedly expresses his concern for the plight of the poor, both in word and deed, no doubt expected to encounter more than a few homeless individuals in the city of brotherly love, but that was not to be. Philadelphia, for reasons of "security," had removed an estimated 5,500 homeless individuals from the downtown area where the Pope was to speak.
Part of the reason for this shameless action by the city fathers was apparently to reassure the Democratic Party that the city has the means and ability to clean itself up for a major event. There should be no opportunities for photographers to snap pictures of well dressed Democrats stepping over or around homeless individuals as they go to and from the convention - just as there were no similar pictures taken in New York City in 1980.
Maybe instead of deporting these suffering individuals every time the circus comes to town, New York City and Philadelphia and every other large urban center in America - as well as the federal government - ought to begin directly addressing the causes of the problem. Things like job training and job creation, more low-income housing, education opportunities, and better health care (especially mental health care) could go a long way toward reducing the number of people forced to live out in the cold - people we all know exist, regardless of how well they are hidden!