I’ve maintained for a long time that authentic conservatism as practiced by today’s Republican Party isn’t authentic conservatism.
Authentic conservatives let nothing go to waste. They seek efficiency and resourcefulness.
And in the spirit of “compassionate conservatism,” they strive to leave no humans behind.
My idea of a good, sound, pragmatic and principled conservative is Richard Berry, the Republican mayor of Albuquerque.
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Mayor Berry took the time to go to his city’s panhandlers and engage them, to hear their stories. By listening to them and showing them common respect rather than treating them like nuisances (or worse, criminalizing homelessness as so many cities do), the major uncovered their wants and needs).
He learned what so many people in street ministries and social services know: that most people don’t want to be on the streets begging for money. They just don’t have much choice.
In good, rock-rib, conservative fashion, the mayor came up with an idea for a solution to the problem of homelessness. This according to an article from The Washington Post.
Here’s an excerpt:
Through a program called “There’s a Better Way,” the city now hires panhandlers for day jobs cleaning up and beautifying the city.
Next month will be the first anniversary of Albuquerque’s There’s a Better Way program, which hires panhandlers for day jobs beautifying the city. In partnership with a local nonprofit that serves the homeless population, a van is dispatched around the city to pick up panhandlers who are interested in working. The job pays $9 an hour, which is above minimum wage, and provides a lunch. At the end of the shift, the participants are offered overnight shelter as needed.
In less than a year since its start, the program has given out 932 jobs clearing 69,601 pounds of litter and weeds from 196 city blocks. And more than 100 people have been connected to permanent employment.
“You can just see the spiral they’ve been on to end up on the corner. Sometimes it takes a little catalyst in their lives to stop the downward spiral, to let them catch their breath, and it’s remarkable,” Berry said in an interview. ”They’ve had the dignity of work for a day; someone believed in them today.”
Indeed, nothing satisfies the soul like the dignity of work.
But as I said, the trend in cities in recent years–in cities led by mayors and city councils of both parties–has been to criminalize panhandling. Nobody wins if some poor Joe or Jane in the street takes up jail space and burns up tax dollars for the “crime” of being poor or homeless.
That’s not to say that a number of cities haven’t come up with solutions like building “mini houses” on city properties designated to give shelter to the poor.
At any rate, Mayor Berry of Albuquerque is my kind of conservative Republican–my kind of political officeholder, period: one who leaves no human resource behind.
Here’s a link to the whole story.
Here’s a story from Dallas about another problem the homeless face.