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Citations Needed

Sep 4, 2019

“As homeless people turn off visitors, San Francisco tourism senses threat” notes Travelers Weekly. “Seattle Is Dying: Drugs And Homelessness In Seattle,” laments KOMO Seattle. “Austin veteran fights off alleged homeless attacker after offering to help him,” exclaims ABC-affiliate KVUE.

As housing costs skyrocket and inequality grows, homelessness is reaching crisis levels in large metropolitan areas. In response, the media––namely local news stations––routinely treat the homeless like an invading species, a vermin to be, at best, contained, and at worst eradicated. 

The result has been a slew of stories pathologizing those experiencing homelessness as uniquely dangerous. Panhandlers are viewed as con men out to screw over the working man, chased down by vigilantes with the help of outraged local news “standing up” to the poor. The housing status of those who commit crimes is only mentioned when they’re homeless––never for the housed––and every transgression committed by the homeless is viewed by our media as evidence that the homeless population in general is out to attack us all.

But this narrative flies in the face of the evidence, and tracks––like most “crime coverage”––with the needs of real estate interests who set the tone for local media coverage, and who have every reason to highlight and oversell the threat of homeless to pressure lawmakers and police to displace “eye sores” for the yuppie clientele they’re attempting to sell and ultimately serve. 

On this first of our two-part episode, we are joined by Steve Potter, an Austin-based artist and homeless activist.