February 1, 2013
Baltimore knows better than to pass new legislation to criminalize public begging ("Spector bill targets 'aggressive' begging," Jan. 29).
A broad coalition of community leaders has reached consensus that housing and supportive services are the most effective responses to the troubling realities of poverty and homelessness. Baltimore has used the innovative "Housing First" approach to change the lives of hundreds of our most vulnerable neighbors — more than 85 percent of whom have remained housed and off the streets. Legislation to criminalize low-income people living their private lives in public spaces is ineffective, counterproductive, and contrary to the goals of Baltimore's Plan to End Homelessness.
Here's the real kicker: Existing law already prohibits begging from people in cars and other vehicles in traffic, making this latest effort duplicative and even mean-spirited. Instead, let's all advance the policies and strategies that will actually work — beginning with greater investment in housing — to keep people off the streets for good.
Kevin Lindamood and Antonia Fasanelli, Baltimore
The writers are, respectively, president and CEO of Health Care for the Homeless and executive director of the Homeless Persons Representation Project.
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