Homeless advocate groups order boycott by Akilah Kafele


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Greensboro City Council continues to regulate homeless solicitation within the city, and advocacy groups have led a boycott of local restaurants in favor of new regulations.

The Working-class and Homeless Organizing Alliance (WHOA) believes these laws will limit the rights and free speech of the homeless.

 

In 2016, Greensboro’s homeless population was more than 700 people, according to Partners Ending Homelessness. There is 47 percent of the population deriving from citizens, including veterans and children, who have lost their homes due to unemployment or underemployment.

WHOA as well as other civil rights groups including The Homeless Union of Greensboro continue to block the Greensboro ordinance as it would criminalize aggressive panhandling and other rights such as the ability to create makeshift shelters throughout the city. Until last week, these advocate groups have kept the ordinance from passing.

On Aug. 14, City council with a 5-4 vote, passed new regulations.

The following is to take place effective immediately:

  1. Prohibit anyone from blocking or impeding sidewalk access.
  2. Ban solicitation in city parking garages and surface parking lots.
  3. Ban “harassing conduct” in public places, which means crowding or surrounding someone “with the intent of threatening, intimidating or causing fear for personal safety.”

Based on public hearings and emails sent to City council, downtown businesses and new developers in the area have shown their support of the ordinance.

“This is an effort to keep poor people away from downtown shoppers, diners and residents,” said Marcus Hyde, Greensboro resident, to the Greensboro News & Record.

Along with WHOA,  N.C. A&T students have shown frustration through boycotting restaurants that favor the regulations.

“I do not think the ordinance is fair because they really do not have anything, and it is basically taking away homeless human’s rights instead of finding a way to help them,” said Destiny Brooks, senior industrial and systems engineering student.

A specific target for the boycott is a local pub, Natty Greene’s. The pub’s general manager has advocated for “any visible action” to be taken against the homeless in Greensboro.

Below is a list of other businesses the WHOA has committed to boycott:

  • Grey’s Tavern
  • 1618
  • Design Archives
  • Aspen Boutique
  • White and Wood Restaurant
  • Cheesecakes by Alex
  • Jerusalem Market
  • Antlers & Astronauts
  • Vintage Vogue

Boycotters are asking for the following demands to be met by the city and supported by the community:

  1. We demand that City Council repeal all “aggressive solicitation,” panhandling, and anti-homeless ordinances.
  2. We demand that the City Council creates a Poverty Commission, with more than 50 percent of those involved being under the poverty line.
  3. We demand that City Council enacts a “Homeless Bill of Rights,” like the one enacted in Duluth, Minnesota, or, even a better one that takes the broad strokes from that and customizes it for Greensboro.
  4. We demand that all Greensboro residents have their right to public space and more importantly the right to exist.
  5. We demand a living wage of at least $15/hour for all Greensboro residents.
  6. We demand that the City of Greensboro establish an eviction legal defense fund for all residents facing eviction.

The alliance sent a press release to Yes! Weekly stating, “The boycott will continue until those businesses support the above demands, rather than scapegoating the entire homeless community and work to harm the least fortunate among us.”

Although the panhandling ordinance has been passed, civil rights groups and Greensboro citizens are still working diligently to be the voice for the homeless and to make sure they continue to have the same basic human and civil rights as anyone else.

“As an A&T student, I believe the boycott is critical in a time where poor and working class people are being targeted. It is our duty as community service champions to show up for the community and poor people that surround us,” said Nikolaus Knight, senior political science student.

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Homeless advocate groups order boycott by Akilah Kafele