Standing against the criminalization of homelessness

(Joey is a leader of the downtown city village. He read this statement at the Greensboro City Council meeting on May 15 in solidarity with the Homeless Union of Greensboro, a new homeless-led group advocating for housing and other forms of justice to eliminate poverty in Greensboro.) 

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My job gives me the ability to work from anywhere in the state of NC. I chose to live in Greensboro because of the values of inclusiveness and hospitality that have been evident throughout Greensboro’s history. As a faith based community organizer working with faith communities that affirm and welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people into their congregations, this ordinance is quite alarming to me. LGBTQ people experience homelessness a higher rate than their straight or heterosexual counterpart. As a young queer latino, I chose Greensboro because I thought I would feel safe. However considering ordinances like this make me wonder if others in the LGBTQ community will feel as safe as I have. 

I’m a newer resident to Greensboro. I moved to the Gate City in November of 2016 and lived downtown, just a few blocks from where city council meets. I spent much of my time exploring the restaurants and business throughout downtown, most of the time on foot. If someone were to ask me if I was ever stopped by someone asking for support, I’d have to say yes. If someone asked me if this made me feel uncomfortable, I’d also have to say yes. However, that discomfort is my responsibility because of the bias I have allowed to creep into my conscious and unconscious mind. 

I feel it is evident through the scriptures and an imperative of the Gospel to be in relationship with my neighbors, including my homeless neighbors. As a person of faith, I take seriously the responsibility to acknowledge how I have fallen short to build the beloved community my faith calls me to build. Any discomfort I have when interacting with my homeless neighbors is not rooted in the values of my faith to care for my neighbor. 

Mayor Vaughn and members of the council, I am a person of faith whose values and beliefs are shaped by the Scriptures and experiences of the families I serve. Because of my faith, I believe we must end the causes of poverty. This is the kind of city we are called to be. I support a clean repeal of the city’s panhandling and loitering ordinances, and ask that the city establish a poverty commission that is accountable to poor people’s priorities.

+Joey Lopez