More than 3.5 million people in the U.S. experience homelessness every year, and the Tampa Bay area has more than 25,000 homeless people, according to Metropolitan Ministries.
However, several students at St. Petersburg College’s downtown campus are tired of seeing homeless people in Williams Park, across the street from their campus. According to Fox 13 News, they plan to take over the park and use a process of displacement to reclaim it.
This action is selfish and inhumane. The homeless in Williams Park are being treated like rabid stray animals rather than humans. It seems SPC students have forgotten the homeless are people too.
At first, hearing students wanting to get the homeless out of Williams Park sounds as though they might have plans to help the homeless there. However, the students are simply selfish and taking the passive route by holding so many activities in the park, hoping the homeless feel unwelcome and leave.
According to Fox 13 News, students plan to propose to the idea Monday to the St. Pete City Council the idea for flooding the park with student activities, hosting organizations and holding outdoor classes.
The students are taking a counteractive approach. If they want to reduce the homeless population at Williams Park, they should seek alternatives for the homeless, not kick them out and create a new problem elsewhere.
Justgive.org provides several opportunities to help, such as developing a list of shelters, responding with kindness and getting donations for the homeless. If the students placed a focus on helping the homeless get back on their feet and find jobs to support themselves again, then they could reduce the homelessness from the source rather than pushing them away to become someone else’s problem.
Williams Park is a city-owned park and does not belong to SPC, therefore SPC students have no right to determine who can be there.
In the Fox 13 report, some students raised a concern about their safety due to attacks by homeless people. This is an understandable concern, and if students ask City Council for anything, it should be an increase in security to keep the students and other citizens safe from attacks by homeless people.
It is not an unreasonable request for students to want to make use of Williams Park, but they are going about it the entirely wrong way. If students want to eliminate homelessness, make an impact on their school and enjoy the park, they should consider starting an organization, such as the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, or take part in National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
Ali Leist is a junior majoring in mass communications.