Hamburger Square park on South Elm Street in downtown Greensboro is being spruced up. A DGI-led task force has made intentional design decisions to discourage homeless people from using the park. And they’re making that decision public:
“Elizabeth Link, the city’s urban designer, created the landscape design for the park. Downtown Greensboro Inc. set in motion the plan to upgrade the park. Link and Ed Wolverton, president of Downtown Greensboro, were on hand for the plan’s unveiling.
Wolverton created a small task force from nearby businesses to get ideas for the design and said Wednesday that there was considerable debate over whether to include benches in the park.
They decided against it, partly because of the added cost, and because the benches would have to be stabilized in the ground, which might interfere with fiber optic cables running beneath the land.
But another reason was over concerns that homeless people would take over the benches and the park itself, making it undesirable for pedestrians. That’s a constant problem throughout downtown.”
Maybe that shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. I thought Greensboro was a town known for not discriminating against people. But I guess it’s still OK to discriminate against homeless people. Here’s the thing, though. A public park is public. That means that anyone can use it. DGI is worried about pedestrians. Most homeless people are pedestrians. Homeless people have a right to sit on benches, just like anyone else.
DGI is either going to have to accept that there will always be homeless people downtown, or they need to find a way to move services elsewhere. The homeless shelters, soup kitchen, day center, mental health center, health clinic, free meal sites, library, bus depot and more are all downtown. Unless shelter and services for homeless people are moved elsewhere, there will always be homeless people downtown. And they are and will continue to be members of the public, and entitled to use any public facilities. And they shouldn’t be discriminated against. For shame, DGI.
Update: Discussion at Ed Cone’s blog.