Check out this article about the controversy surrounding the opening of a restaurant called Great Balls on Tires which intends to upon at the New Genesis apartments, a mixed-use project with both indigent and moderate-income residents, along with retail space, on Skid Row.
As you might expect, a bunch of advocates for Skid Row residents believe that a restaurant serving beer and wine will somehow tempt people in recovery into relapsing. To me, this argument is self-evidently absurd… the folks they’re worried about are drinking Thunderbird and OE, not pino grigio.
But there is a separate line of argumentation brought to light in the article that seems to reject the whole idea of a mixed-use building with non-indigent tenants in Skid Row. The relevant line is this one, from an advocate name Alice Callaghan: “A restaurant for ‘uptowners’ will result in the poor Genesis residents being pushed off the sidewalk in front of their apartment building.”
Implicit in Ms. Callaghan’s quote is the notion that people have the moral right to set up camp on city sidewalks and that there is something unjust about them being “pushed off”.
It’s true that we, as a city, need to do more to help our homeless brothers and sisters. We need more shelter beds, more substance abuse treatment options, more mental health care facilities, etc. In short, we need to devote more societal resources to comforting people afflicted with homelessness and its associated pathologies.
But, all of that being said, do you know what goes on in those encampments on the street on Skid Row: People using the streets as a toilet, littering, buying/selling/consuming drugs, drinking in public, prostituting themselves, etc. There is no right, legal or moral, to doing any of those things. And the residents of the New Genesis apartments and the owners and patrons of Great Balls on Tires, have every right to clean, safe, streets in front of their homes and businesses.
Just because there is a history of lawlessness on Skid Row doesn’t mean there is some kind of permanent right to it.