Georgetown Homeless: Time for Tough Love?

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No doubt most people feel sorry for the homeless in our midst. Georgetowners are generally generous and compassionate; we feel an obligation to help the poor. Liberal guilt also abounds.

So we look aside as mainly homeless white men — many of them probably vets — move back near the newly reopened Watergate into a large, permanent-looking tent city. Others spread out on the wide benches along the National Park Service’s Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. Georgetowners can’t even sit there to enjoy the glorious days of Indian summer. With daylight saving time ending soon, office workers feel uncomfortable walking past sleeping idle men in public spaces.

“Something has to be done,” many Georgetowners say. “But what?”

Well, some cities are trying tough love. It’s the heartbreaking decision that parents have to make when their adult children become completely irresponsible. They give their loved ones a choice of only two options: shape up or move out.
Citizens in liberal cities like Denver, Colorado; Berkeley, California; and Portland, Oregon, recently passed new laws with funding and the full support of local organizations. They offer the longtime homeless in town two options: commit themselves to supervised shelter, mental and addiction services or take a one-way ticket out of town — with a possible arrest warrant if they return still indigent.

D.C. and Georgetown could do it. Tough love. But there’s not much will. We’re a liberal, freedom-loving, diverse and tolerant city. Most D.C. voters do the so-called “love” part — the “oh, let them be” part — pretty well. The “tough” part — insisting on change — they don’t do so well. Is it time to toughen up?

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