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  • Writer's pictureMichael Hays

From D.C. to MontCo: Where can Homeless Go?

Updated: Apr 30

Where does society expect people to go when they have nowhere else to sleep? 


Arguments begin this week in Washington, D.C., when the U.S. Supreme Court begins hearing testimony in the Johnson vs. Grants Pass, Oregon case. Honestly, it could be Pottstown, Norristown, or Lower Providence versus Johnson because the facts on the ground across America related to housing insecurity remain the same:  When both the private housing market and government fail to provide housing that all people can afford, can governments make it a crime to sleep on benches or in makeshift encampments? 


Municipalities throughout Montgomery County have come up short in providing safety net provisions to people living on the margins. Few require affordable housing during land development. We have a volunteer and church-driven Code Blue system of shelter during the harshest weather conditions. Yet we struggle to provide shelter or supportive housing 12 months a year. 


Why? 


Blame NIMBY (Not in My Backyard), for starters. In Lower Providence during recent public hearings on a RHD-proposed 60-unit supportive housing plan, one speaker after another essentially said:  “I’m a compassionate person. We need to help those in need. But don’t put that here because it threatens me and my family.” 



Supporters of the Genny's Place supportive housing proposal rally in Eagleville on April 20, 2024.


That is quintessential NIMBY, a force so powerful that people will spend hundreds of dollars on billboard advertising (they did) and whip up fears based mostly on distortions and lies. Fear is a powerful motivator. 


Yet it is my hope that love, compassion, commonsense, and decency will win – both in the halls of power in D.C. and inside public meeting rooms in Montgomery County where our experiment in self-government is tested. Without both the force of law and the compassion and wisdom of our elected leaders, we will not be able to navigate our way out of the historic wave of housing insecurity that we are paddling through at this moment. 


We’re all in this together, so grab a life-raft and get involved.

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