First, a tiny little mea culpa.
Last week I said that if all of Greenland’s ice melted, the oceans would rise 230 feet. I regret having to confess that it was an unintended exaggeration. I would prefer to be able to say it was intended, like most of my exaggerations. But no, I believed the wrong source. Actually the oceans would only rise barely enough to flood Pioneer Square. Nothing to get alarmed about. No one needs Pioneer Square anyway.
While we’re still talking about Greenland, I can’t not comment about a story that appeared in a Danish newspaper last week, titled “Grønlands regeringschef vil købe USA tilbage.” I’m told this means “Greenland’s head of government will buy back the US.” I’m going to pretend that can’t possibly be fake news.
It turns out that just because Leif Erikson got to North America before Columbus, and Leif spent a lot of time in Greenland, Premier Kielsen is saying Greenland has a legal claim to the United States.
He completely ignores the fact that Leif was ostensibly an Icelander, and he was only vacationing in Greenland before “discovering” North America. Also North America does not equal the USA. Also, there is no record of Leif ever saying the magic words “I claim this entire land that my foot is touching, in the name of the great land of Greenland, where I last resided, for now and in perpetuity.”
Kielsen does go on to say Greenland would graciously pay a reasonable price for the U.S., rather than waltz in and take it outright. Nevertheless I think Trump should declare Premier Kielsen’s comments absurd, if only to improve his foul mood.
Now let’s talk about Boise!
In September the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Martin v. Boise that it’s cruel and unusual for Boise to ban sleeping on the streets. The ruling affects all the states in the 9th Circuit’s jurisdiction: Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and the five states bordering the Pacific Ocean, including ours, and Guam.
The ruling, built on previous rulings, says that municipalities must ensure there is adequate shelter before they can prosecute homeless people for sleeping outdoors. In 2014 Boise complied with earlier rulings by setting a policy that campers would not be prosecuted whenever shelters were full. But they continue to ban camping much of the time on the grounds that the three shelters in the city are often not full. The 9th Circuit panel looked into that.
One of the three shelters is full almost all the time. It’s a secular shelter. The other two are both run by a Christian mission, one for men and the other for women and children.
The two shelters run by the mission have time limits for those who stay at them, except for those who join a religious instruction program. They are often not full. And when they are not, the Boise police have been allowed to issue citations for camping outside.
Citing a preceding ruling, the 9th Circuit panel said, “A city cannot, via the threat of prosecution, coerce an individual to attend religion-based treatment programs consistently with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
Telling someone they have to receive religious instruction in order to continue staying in a shelter does not constitute providing shelter. So the fact that the religious shelters couldn’t fill their beds isn’t a measure of adequate shelter and doesn’t excuse prosecution of campers.
And now Boise is trying to appeal the appeal court’s decision to the Supreme Court.
They are appealing because, they say, the decision is getting in the way of what Boise needs to do to get homeless people to stop camping, which is to issue them tickets and threaten to jail them when they don’t pay — rather than creating more shelter.
On behalf of all the other cities that could be impacted by Martin v. Boise, Boise’s petition states that by letting the Court of Appeals’ ruling stand, it will “cripple the ability of more than 1,600 municipalities in the Ninth Circuit to maintain the health and safety of their communities.”
Or would it just compel them to stop crippling the ability of more than 200,000 of their residents to survive, and to really provide truly adequate shelter and housing?
Boise’s position comes down to saying that the 9th Circuit is being cruel to them by not letting them be cruel to homeless campers.
The idea that you can get homeless people off the streets by, either prosecuting them away or forcing them into religious programs, is absurd.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
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