Originally posted on NRPA’s Open Space blog on January 22, 2014.
The January cover story about homelessness in parks, “Out of the Shadows,” is one I’ve wanted to write for a long time. At both the 2012 and 2013 NRPA Congresses, I attended education sessions on homelessness presented by Sara Lamnin, and in each, I hoped to gather some stories from other attendees of successful programs that park agencies have implemented to work with the homeless people living in their parks.
At the beginning of each session, the presenter asked attendees what they wanted to get out of their time, and many people talked in soft, politically correct terms about compassionate solutions and providing resources for assistance. One woman was more blunt. “I just want them out,” she said. “I want to know what legal backing I have for removing people who illegally set up camp in parks we spend a lot of time developing and maintaining.” By the general murmurs around the room, I gathered that many other people there felt the same but hadn’t been bold enough to speak as openly.