Civil Rights Leader Peter Johnson Excoriates Council for Proposal to Bus Out Homeless
Last week, as they City Council was being briefed on the still very incomplete effort to end chronic homelessness in Dallas, a frustrated Dwaine Caraway proposed a surefire solution: Why not round up the homeless people, stick them on a Greyhound bus, and send them back to where they came from? Most of them came from somewhere else, the councilman suggested, so they could take advantage of Dallas' uniquely robust network of social services.
Via. The Reverend Peter Johnson
Homeless people, the advocates who work with them, and pretty much anyone else have reason to doubt this assessment. Mental illness and substance abuse drive chronic homelessness and, however wonderful The Bridge may be, the thought that the services offered are so generous that homeless people from across the country are flocking to it seems far-fetched.
Caraway's colleagues let Caraway's soliloquy on homelessness pass without comment. The Reverend Peter Johnson, longtime local civil rights leader and former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference had other ideas. He stepped up to the microphone during the public comment section following today's City Council meeting and addressed Caraway's comments and the rest of the council for keeping silent.
"I really struggled on how to respond to this," he began. "First to let you know that people who sleep under bridges and beg on our streets and walk around talking to themselves and drinking out of paper bags, in Jesus' eyesight, they're more important than you, Mr. Mayor. In God's eyes, they're more important [than rich people].
"The idea of putting homeless people in buses and sending them back to states where they came from is offensive to me. ... As a city, as a collective community, we won't be judged on how we treat rich people. We will be judged on what Jesus called the least of these."
He probably would have dropped the mic at that point were it not attached to the podium. Still, his point was made.