The Homeless vs. Mayor Muriel Bowser

Protesters holding signs of the dead homeless while marching to end homelessness and Encampment Sweeps

Protesters holding signs of the dead homeless while marching to end homelessness and Encampment Sweeps | By Ashley Strange

Com 392 | Speech Writing

Assignment 5: The Policy Speech

Write a 7-8 page speech on an important policy issue. This post will include four pages as a sample of the full speech.

A policy speech is a persuasive speech. It address a problem or issue and attempts to convince the audience to accept a course of action the speaker believes is the best answer to the problem. Policy speeches are never “one or the other,” but rather deal in gray areas. Most are structured in a “problem-solution” format. Credible sources are critical in this type of speech. Logic and reason serve as the basis for the arguments. The writing should be clear, concise, and to the point.

Encampment Sweeps:

The Homeless vs. Mayor Muriel Bowser

April 20, 2016

In 2015, 53 homeless people died on the streets of Washington, D.C., and if it had not been for the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), National Consumer Advisory Board (NCAB), and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC), their lives would have ended without anyone knowing who they were or how they died (Black et al, 2016). Each year since 1990, on or near the first day of winter, these agencies have held a Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day event to remember the lives of those homeless persons who died while living on the streets (“National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day”). These agencies advocate for homeless, but now they are faced with an even bigger task. The mayor of our city is ordering “sweeps” to eradicate the shelters homeless people depend on to store the few belongings they have.

The mayor and D.C. Government should stop encampment sweeps because they cause more harm than good by further endangering the lives of the homeless.

We live in a city of great wealth. Unfortunately, many people are not able to enjoy that wealth. Business men and women will happily walk by a homeless person who is holding out a cup for spare change. Many persons walk by without even acknowledging the existence of homeless people. According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, homelessness is defined as “an individual who lacks housing, including an individual whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility that provides temporary living accommodations, and an individual who is a resident in transitional housing.” According to a report by PBS, there was a nationwide count of 578,424 homeless people in 2014, with 7,748 in the District alone.

The Washington Post reported that in January 2015, the annual survey, or “a point-in-time count,” found that there were 1,072 single adults sleeping on the streets. The count also found that there were nine families of “39 adults and children, with no shelter.” It was a freezing night when the count took place, with chill indexes in the 20s (F). The Post also reported that 1,000 parents and children were placed in shelters by the end of the winter 2015, however, more than 900 additional families were turned away because they were told that they had family or friends with whom they could stay. The idea of finding “their own” housing is unrealistic in a city where there is a “shortage of living-wage jobs” which prevents them from providing housing for their families. Knowing this, it is sad to even imagine that Mayor Muriel Bowser, the mayor of our nation’s capitol, would pass a law that allows the removal of a homeless person’s only shelter, a tent, especially with a city full of people who are not very interested in helping them with just a few dollars.

A tent, which is defined as “a portable shelter that is used outdoors, is made of cloth, and is held up with poles and rope” (“Merriam-Webster”). A tent is perfect for outdoor camping, but many people here in the district are homeless, and the only shelter they have is a tent made of cloth. Although this is not an ideal form of shelter, it does provide some security from the outside world. The removal of a homeless person’s tent is called an encampment sweep, introduced by Mayor Bowser in 2015. In November, we saw the beginning of the city wide sweeps. The District Department of Transportation taped notices written by the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Brenda Donald, to the tents of the homeless residing near the underpasses near 27th Street and Virginia Avenue NW. Some of the residents of these camps went on apartment visits the day before the sweep took place. Although some of the homeless have been connected to the Department of Human Services (DHS), many others continue to wait for housing (Hughes, 2015). Removing the homeless’ shelters and throwing them away with their possessions is cruel. There was a 41-year-old man named Omar Abdullah who camped with his twin brother, Ali, under the bridge in Northeast, a few steps from Union Station. He and his brother had been living there for six months before workers came to bag up his belongings and move them into temporary storage. After his belongings were taken away, he expressed feeling like he was back at the bottom. Having his tent removed created more pressure to his life on the streets (Heim, 2016). Living on the streets is bad enough, and the Mayor and her plan is not making the lives of the homeless any better.

Without a tent, the homeless are exposed to many dangers. Bobbie Mascuch, a 64-year-old woman who had been living under the Union Station Bridge for 18 months, slept out in the rain and snow, and no one did anything to help her, except for one “good Samaritan” who gave her, and others living there at the camp, tents to sleep in. Once their tents were removed, she was again exposed to harsh weather conditions. The city’s excuse was that campers were breaking the law because they had no permit to camp under the bridge. Rachel Joseph, chief of staff to Deputy Mayor Donald, stated that although it is not illegal to sleep on the streets, it is however against the law to put up tents on the streets. In other words, it is fine for the homeless to sleep on the streets and be exposed to the rain, snow, and any other life threating weather conditions, but it’s not fine if they protect themselves from this weather. Joseph is quoted as saying that the city gave the homeless advanced notice of the sweep and had been working to arrange housing with contractors, but did not give information on where the homeless will go for the time being (Heim, 2016). Until contractors agree to house some of the homeless, they are left on the street without any form of protection. The best thing to do is to ensure shelter for the homeless before deciding to take their tents away

When the economy turned in 2007, life became harder for Rafael Cruz.  He was working as a welder and helped build firetrucks, but then he wasn’t able to pay $1,200 for rent with a job that only paid $10 an hour. Cruz then became one of the many homeless campers who live under the Rock Creek Parkway Bridge. Cruz considered moving to California because, once his tent was taken away, at least in California he will not freeze during the winter (Mollenbeck, 2015). If they have to leave the city they once called home in order to sleep on the warm streets of another city without the need for a tent, that’s an issue. If the homeless are not physically bothering the public, they should be able to keep their tents.

More recently, Bella Kamra, along with many of the other homeless, was kicked out of the Foggy Bottom homeless camp. He has been on the Housing Waiting list for over five years, and found himself relying on his tent, which he packed up into a shopping cart to start his search for somewhere else to sleep. Others around him were not as fortunate. Many of the homeless lose all of their possessions, like tents, beds, and clothes (Brice-Saddler, 2016).

 

Author: This practice speech was written by Ashley Strange for Communication 392 Speech Writing Class

References

“5-Year Plan to End Homelessness in the District Approved Unanimously.” Street Sense. 8 Apr. 2015. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. http://streetsense.org/article/5-year-plan-to-end-homelessness-in-the-district-approved-unanimously-2/#.VxLPTzArLIU.

“National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.” National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. http://www.nationalhomeless.org/projects/memorial/index.html

Black, Reginald, Colleen Cosgriff, and Ashley Strange. “Friday, December 18: Demonstrators Take The Wilson Building.” Street Sense. 5 Jan. 2016. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. http://streetsense.org/article/demonstrators-take-the-wilson-building/#.VxLNpzArLIV

Brice-Saddler, Michael. “D.C. Closes Another Foggy Bottom Homeless Camp.” Street Sense. N.p., 15 Apr. 2016. Web. 18 Apr. 2016. http://streetsense.org/article/bowser-admin-washington-tent-city-closure/#.VxU_BzArLIU

Davis, Aaron C., and Jonathan O’Connell. “Homeless Shelter Plan Could Be Profitable for Bowser’s Backers.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 16 Mar. 2016. Web. 18 Apr. 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/homeless-shelter-plan-could-be-profitable-for-bowsers-backers/2016/03/16/cbab0e76-eadc-11e5-b0fd-073d5930a7b7_story.html

Heim, Joe. “Near the U.S. Capitol, an Encampment of the Homeless Is Removed by City Workers.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 10 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/near-the-us-capitol-a-tent-city-for-the-homeless-gets-dismantled-by-city-workers/2016/03/10/a925b902-e6e3-11e5-b0fd-073d5930a7b7_story.html.

Hughes, Sarah Anne. “As City Disbands Homeless Encampment, Some Residents Resist Moving.” City Desk RSS. Washington City Paper, 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2015/11/20/as-city-disbands-homeless-encampment-some-residents-resist-moving/.

Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.

Mollenbeck, Andrew, and Marcus J. Moore. “Tent City: Inside D.C.’s Homeless Camps.” WTOP. 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. http://wtop.com/dc/2015/08/tent-city-inside-d-c-s-homeless-camps/slide/1/.

Panagopoulos, Megan. “Emergency Response and Shelter Operations to Move D.C. Homeward.” Street Sense. 8 June 2015. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. http://streetsense.org/article/homelessness-emergency-response-shelter-committee-homeward-dc/

 

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About Ashley Strange

I am studying Communications and English at Trinity University In Washington, D.C. I spent five years in the D.C. foster care system after my mother passed. Life for me has always been a struggle. Specifically, school. I thank God that I was able to graduate despite being told I wouldn't. My learning disability seemed to be too much for teachers to handle; so, I was casted away and did not learn much. After entering foster care I began to go to school everyday and managed to graduate with a 2.7 GPA. I consider myself an advocate and an example for foster youth and for those who were told to basically give up. To this day, I find it amazing that I got my High School Diploma, and will soon be a college graduate. My advice to people like me is to never give up and always strive for success!
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