LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Justice for the homeless: Students march for awareness

By: Jordan Spiegle – Sophomore, Sociology

In the Dayton area and Montgomery County, more than 960 people are homeless each night. In the 2013 Ohio Poverty Report, it was stated that 16 percent of the population in Montgomery County was living below the poverty line, which is over the state average. (2010-11 Ohio Homelessness Report in Montgomery County Homeless Solutions). Basic necessities such as sitting, lying, sleeping, eating or sharing food in public are just a few things that the homeless have been criminalized for.

Homelessness is not a crime yet in the student neighborhood. Our campus police are contacting the Dayton police to arrest the homeless that are collecting the cans that we leave out on our streets or in the trash. These individuals have not caused any harm or problems, but we are criminalizing them for the homelessness that they are experiencing.

In our social work class at the University of Dayton, we recently read an article where homeless people were arrested for “trespassing” under the bridge on Perry Street. We felt prompted to bring awareness to the issue of criminalization of the homeless in the Dayton area by hosting a march through campus on Sunday. We felt this march was one way to help recover some of the losses of the items that were taken away during the arrests. By leading the march throughout campus we were creating awareness that homelessness is not a crime.

Because of the poor weather, we drove through campus to collect the cans, rather than marching. The students living in houses around the neighborhood played a big role in leaving their cans out in the yards in order to participate in this action. We gathered almost 15 garbage bags worth of cans.

After collecting the cans, we brought them all to the bridge under Perry Street. Since this is where the homeless people were forced to leave and accused of stealing the items they carried along with them, we wanted to give justice to those people by giving them the cans. We took chalk and drew under the bridge phrases like, “homelessness is not a crime”, “justice for the homeless” and “honk for justice”. As cars drove by the bridge they honked and many people seemed to appreciate what we were doing. Since there were no homeless people there at the time of our march, we left the cans at the top of the under passage where they can later retrieve them. Overall, this was a rewarding experience.