Homelessness is a bad enough problem on its own. The problem is especially abominable when the state of homelessness is imposed upon its victims by law enforcement. Yet this is precisely what is happening in the enlightened state of Florida in the Evil Empire: The Richest Nation in the World™. We have seen a rise in the number of municipal statutes that establish so-called pedophile exclusion zones. This, however, does not reflect the myriad other restrictions imposed by private individuals that affect where folks on the sex offenders registry can live. In the case at hand, three men on the registry in Miami, Florida claim the area under a bridge as their residence and the bridge is officially listed as their address on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website. The men are unable to find adequate housing — even in a homeless shelter — because of their status as sex offenders. Most affordable housing is out of reach because it is too close to the schools or parks that they are required to stay away from. When Sanchez complained that he had no address to provide because of his troubles finding housing, his probation officer, according to official records, told him “Go over the bridge. Once over the bridge, go under it towards the west side as far as you can go.” Whatever you think of these men, both of whom were convicted of sexual battery by an adult of a victim under the age of twelve, it seems quite a reach to expect that they will be able to lead productive, law-abiding lives when they are forced to exist in such a fashion.
Angel Sanchez quite legitimately claims that his living conditions are a new form of punishment. As heinous as his crime may have been, he was sentenced and incarcerated. He has paid his debt to society. Nobody deserves to live under a bridge, much less have a probation officer instruct him to live there and check daily to see if he is there during the hours of curfew. If somebody is homeless, regardless of what crime he has been punished for in the past, he ought to have the same access to relief resources as other people seeking similar assistance. If a municipality has chosen to impose Draconian restrictions upon where a person can live (the constitutionality of which is suspect), at the very least, it has an obligation to provide adequate housing to folks who otherwise have no place to reside. Incidentally, the undersides of bridges do not qualify as adequate housing.
A more disturbing issue is the psychological effect that such marginalisation might have on former convicts. Somebody who has emerged from prison and manages to find a stable living environment is much less likely to have future trouble with the law than somebody who finds himself unable to find lodging and employment. Indeed, one must wonder at which point a person, who is routinely rejected by society and turned away from both housing and employment, will become so desperate and disillusioned that he is tempted to lash out or strike back at a society that has so completely ostracised him. Rather than the hope and therapy that many of these people require, they are receiving unequivocal rejection and marginalisation. This cannot possibly be in the best interests of the public.