Homeless in Myrtle Beach – Arbeit Macht Frei
By Paul Gable
The homeless population in Myrtle Beach is an inconvenient problem for the city fathers (and mothers). It’s not good advertising for the tourists to see homeless on our streets and they sure aren’t welcome at the Dunes Club.
What to do? It seems like the powers that be in the city are falling back on an old European approach to the problem of dealing with people who are out of a job and homeless.
Arbeit Macht Frei, literally translates as labour makes free. More generally it means ‘work sets you free’ or ‘labour brings you freedom’. The slogan was cynically placed over the gates of Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.
While the vast majority of the population in concentration camps was Jewish, others considered ‘work-shy’ such as homeless, alcoholics, mentally ill, draft dodgers, pacifists, prostitutes and political enemies were also among the prisoners.
The Nazis put homeless persons in concentration camps. I wonder if we aren’t witnessing the same type of mentality, albeit not as extreme, in the current efforts of the city of Myrtle Beach under the auspices of the Myrtle Beach Homeless Coalition.
Supposedly put together to coordinate the efforts of various service providers, funders and government officials, it seems that a centralized registry of homeless persons complete with the issuance ID cards is the most talked about initiative by the group at this time.
Initially explained as an attempt to prevent duplication of services by the various agencies providing services to the local homeless population, I view this explanation with a very jaundiced eye. It works more to the concept of ‘if you want to eat or a place to sleep out of the weather, you have to register.’
As one person active in the community helping the poor and underprivileged pointed out, there aren’t that many services to begin with. “What do they want to do, make sure a person doesn’t get two cans of soup instead of one?” the activist asked.
A more recent reason for a central registry and the issuance of ID cards was given by coalition facilitator Mary Jeffcoat to local media. She said there are convicted felons living on the street among the homeless and the city needs to know who they are.
This begs the question ‘if we don’t know who the homeless are, how do we know there are felons among them?’ And does Jeffcoat seriously believe felons or others on the run are going to register for ID cards?
A centralized registry is only the first step toward having a centralized location in which the homeless will be confined.
Last month the city sponsored an appearance by Richard Lupton, author of “Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help and How to Reverse It.” It seems Lupton believes people should be fed for free only in times of emergency or natural disaster.
Feeding the homeless more than once hurts them, according to Lupton. This is right in line with other enlightened theories such as ‘they are homeless because they want to be’ or ‘if they want to eat they should get a job.’
What ever happened to helping your fellow man? The homeless are people too whether the more fortunate want to admit it or not.
Hope House has done a magnificent job in recent years meeting the needs of homeless students at Myrtle Beach High School. Not only are these students completing their high school education, but also many are going on to college often with scholarships to help pay their tuition. Guess that doesn’t fit into Lupton’s analysis.
Oh well, you know, opinions are like a______, everybody has one although sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.
All of this centralized registry and toxic charity talk sounds like another Nazi maxim – ‘tell the big lie often enough and everyone will believe it.’
A couple of years ago, the city wanted the county to give it law enforcement jurisdiction over donut holes and other county areas within the city. The complaint at the time was that the homeless would go onto county land to avoid city police homeless sweeps. The intent then was to find a way to eliminate homeless persons in and around the city limits.
The intent is no different now, in my estimation. A centralized, government sponsored registration and identification database has nothing to do with duplicating services.
On second thought, maybe it does. After all, if the city successfully runs all the homeless off, there won’t be any services needed so there can’t be duplication.