OUR OPINION: Eviction of homeless can’t be the end of it

By NEMS Daily Journal



Evictions: City acts on homeless complaints
Tupelo’s official, non-violent eviction on Monday of homeless people from tents and shelters along a creek flowing under South Gloster Street and along Carnation Street became an almost inevitable decision after months of complaints and especially after a recent surge in threatening behavior.
The eviction resulted from extensive discussions with private property owners, nearby business people or their agents about the people who occupied the site for months – and occasionally took shelter under a bridge on Gloster Street that crosses the creek.
The encampment along the creek’s north embankment was on property belonging to the L.D. Hancock Co., whose manager, Bill Haygood requested the eviction.
Some people object strongly to the eviction, in part because no alternative shelter exists except the Salvation Army, about two blocks from the encampment. However, the occupants of the area for the most part refuse to accept a standing invitation from the Salvation Army because they cannot or will not abide by its rules, including a ban on alcohol and drug use and a search for work.
Those at the Gloster Street/Carnation Street site are not the only homeless in Tupelo; a sizable number of others are less visible because they exist in more remote, less prominent locales.
Homelessness is not a new problem in Tupelo, but it is larger. Many people have seen drifters walking along the highways leading into Tupelo, some stopping at the Salvation Army, others landing elsewhere.
Homelessness has moral and ethical dimensions regardless of the way it’s examined. Troubled people, often hopeless and penniless, need a helping hand – if they will accept it with stipulations that could help them return to life’s mainstream. Often that is not the case, as with those evicted Monday.
Tupelo officially and through a volunteer committee already on task should move ahead toward a consensus on meaningful action – and an offer of hospitality at its most basic level: Survival.
Monday’s action was non-violent and reasonable, and it may need to be repeated in other contexts because the problem will not suddenly vanish.
In the longer term, Tupelo must decide how to offer hope, and if rejected, deal with the people respectfully but firmly because safety is the city’s first responsibility.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. suggests that a significant recommendation could be made soon; we hope that a consensus will develop around a bold and compassionate way forward.