In a letter to the editor published by the Montana Kaimin on Feb. 21, former UM student Garret Morrill offered an ad hominem attack on the homeless, noting that “the average person does not want to deal” with the “notoriously dirty, crime-laden, miserable, and unhealthy” conditions created by “vagrancy”. While he goes on to justify this argument by redefining compassion, there is no question that the argument offered by Morrill is not only logically inconsistent, but extremely harmful when perpetuated.
The most glaring inconsistency in the letter written by Morrill becomes most apparent as the reader suffers through the final paragraph, in which the author notes that “real compassion requires a disciplined approach now so we need not be harsh in the future.” Yet, earlier in the letter, he notes that his approach to the issue of homelessness would include “deterring vagrancy behavior, containing occupation areas, and reducing the population through asylum and rehabilitation.”
Now, there are two assumptions underlying the aforementioned claim, the first being that the solution offered by Morrill will solve for homelessness in the future; the second premise, present in the latter quotation, is that people are entirely to blame for their homelessness. However, it does not take a social scientist to recognize that all of the solutions offered by Morrill are merely retroactive and, therefore, not capable of preventing homelessness. Aside from that, vagrancy for a homeless person is synonymous with existence, and arguing that rehabilitation will result in some solution is equivalent to offering rehab for students forced out of school by financial difficulty. They don’t need rehab, Morrill, they need our support, and your doctrine of compassion is awfully reminiscent of those espoused by imperial rulers, anti-Semites, and segregationists.
Unfortunately, a reader might be distracted from that flaw as they encounter Morrill’s analysis of the ways in which public architecture “facilitates the homeless to irritate the populace, proliferate their number, and disperse away from the facilities which might render them aid.” Believe it or not, as most people know, the homeless are not scurrying door to door, recruiting fellow flawed beings to join their ranks in pursuit of their ultimate goal (to thwart Morrill); if the author had taken a second to critically think about this claim, or have any empathy whatsoever, he would have realized that this perception of homelessness is utterly ridiculous. The homeless spend a majority of their time in pur- suit of those things Morrill takes for granted, and, moreover, are often kept from doing so by people just like him.
Upon encountering Morrill’s letter to the editor, I couldn’t help but offer this response. Unfortunately though, the air of disgust and pretentiousness present in the author’s argumentation says much more about his insecurity than about the struggle Missoula’s homeless population endures. As such, I encourage the most people Morrill is speaking up for (if they exist) to seriously reconsider the reason homelessness is a problem in the first place. We have banned the homeless from private property, and to ban them from public property as well cannot just be discipline, it necessarily entails extermination.
– Eli Brown