Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Orlando 1; 1st Amendment 0; Still Pissed Off in O'Town

As recounted in a previous post, the City of Orlando has made it a crime with penalties including incareration for panhandling on city streets if done outside of restricted areas, measured in a few square feet and bounded by blue paint.

This amounts to a patently unconstitutional violation of free speech in a public forum and protected by the first amendment to the Constitution.

From the syllabus to the USSC decision: "1. An airport terminal operated by a public authority is a non-public forum, and thus a ban on solicitation need only satisfy a reasonableness standard. Pp. 677-683.

(a) The extent to which the Port Authority can restrict expressive activity on its property depends on the nature of the forum. Regulation of traditional public fora or designated public fora survives only if it is narrowly drawn to achieve a compelling state interest, but limitations on expressive activity conducted on any other government-owned property need only be reasonable to survive. Perry Education Assn. v. Perry Local Educators' Assn., 460 U.S. 37, 45, 46. Pp. 677-679."
(emphasis added)

Public sidewalks by definition have to receive consideration as public forums thus protecting people exercising their right to free speech by asking for $.

For Jesus' sake people, feed the hungry.

[For you have been a refuge to the poor,
a refuge to the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the rainstorm
and a shade from the heat.

- Isaiah 25:4]

[There is no dispute that the Hare Krishnas' activities are protected by the First Amendment. Rather, the constitutional dispute is over the character of the airport itself.

If an area is not a "public forum," the Government is not constitutionally obliged to accommodate speech or other activities that would have full constitutional protection on a street corner, for example.] Emphasis added

Monday, May 18, 2009

Last Post Still Pisses Me Off

Took a bit to percolate through my brain, but using the phrase "frequent fliers" in an article on the most incarcerated people in Orlando over the last 10 years attempts a sad, bad, cruel and tasteless joke.

Such "joke" shifts focus from insanity in the policies of Orlando towards homeless people.

Rather than fund drug treatment programs, affordable housing, work training, and shelters for homeless folk, the city fathers spend $ on locking up homeless people, thereby wasting valuable police and jail resources.

Guess they don't want to sully the image of Orlando, where in the immortal words of Eric Cartman, "People starving hardly never."

Waiting for comment from Sentinel reporter.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"Justice" in Orlando, FL: Where Can a Homeless Person Pee?

Orlando bills itself as the City Beautiful.

Yes, we have many beautiful aspects--unless you find yourself homeless in Orlando. Then, you'd find yourself subject to constant arrests and harassment in the name of enforcing city ordinances.

Then we become the City Mean.

Consider the sad cases of Roosevelt Richardson, incarcerated 123 times ove 10 years for the crimes of: "panhandling and other petty crimes such as loitering, urinating in public and trespassing." (Full story below.) That averages out to over once a month for TEN years.

While we all agree having people pee in public violates the sense of decency if not threatening the entire social order, where can a homeless person pee?

Many businesses open to the public violate the provision of the FL Administrative Code which states such must allow members of the public to use restrooms of the establishment, thus they patently violating the law.

While murders in Orlando have increased dramatically--even as the Orlando Sentinel keeps a scorecard--our POlice protect us from panhandlers. Holy misplaced priorities, Batman.

I'd rather give someone a dollar rather than get killed. Hey even if they use it for beer, I figure they need 1 to cope.

Speaking of druthers, Richardson has his: ["I'd rather be walking the streets hungry than full in the jail," Richardson said.]

Will have to dust off my constitutonal law book to check but feel fairly certain the US Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional right to free speech included the rights of Hare Krishnas top ask for $ from people.

By extension, people in America have the constitutional right to ask other people for $.

Given the lack of drug treatment programs, affordable housing, and freaking JOBS please remind President Obama that "infrastrucure includes PEOPLE, which look invisible to us but all had mothers and fathers and maybe siblings.

Get involved in your community; Jesus said to feed people to get into heaven: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…" (Matthew 25: 35, 36)

[Used without permission under Fair Use doctrine because this story deals with an issue of national import: homelesness],0,3935678.story
Jail's 'frequent flier' has been in and out 123 times
Bianca Prieto

Sentinel Staff Writer

At any given time, Rosevelt Richardson is almost certainly at one of two places -- in the Orange County Jail or on an Orlando street corner.

They're hardly his favorite two hangouts. They're just the ones he knows best.

"I've put myself in a rut, and I don't know how to get out of it," Richardson said. "I'm tired of this."

How could he not be? During the past 10 years, Richardson has checked in and out of the county jail 123 times, or about once a month. And right now, he's checked in -- for stint 124. Richardson sits in jail, disappointed with himself but with one inescapable distinction: No one has been booked into Orange County's jail more during the past decade than he has.

Richardson, a 59-year-old homeless panhandler, heads the list of "frequent fliers," the most-booked inmates since 1999, according to jail records surveyed by the Orlando Sentinel.

The group of the county's top 10 fliers is made up mostly of transients who have smiled, cringed, glared and frowned for 836 mug shots. All are men. Most are black.[emphasis added]

Almost all of their arrests are for panhandling and other petty crimes such as loitering, urinating in public and trespassing, records show. Sprinkled throughout the hundreds of arrests are some violent crimes and drug charges.

"In general, a lot of people who come in and out of the jail are people who are homeless or mentally ill," jail spokesman Allen Moore said. "Because of their life circumstances, they get in a position where they violate city or county ordinances [and are arrested]."

On a recent weekday, Richardson pulls up a chair in a barren interview room at the jail. The skeptical look on his face shows through his salt-and-pepper beard and extends to his bald head and eyes. He doesn't yet understand why he would be of any interest to a reporter. He's surprised -- almost pleased -- to learn he's at the top of the list. This time he's here for violating probation on a prior trespassing and panhandling case.

The room echoes as he answers questions about why he can't stay out of jail.

"Because my income is panhandling," Richardson says. said. And in Orlando, that's illegal.

Arthritis invaded Richardson's joints a few years ago, making it nearly impossible for him to do the only trade he knows: migrant field work. He dropped out of school in sixth grade to follow the fields to pick oranges, cucumbers, watermelons and tomatoes, he said.

He fathered four children but left his family when his youngest son was 6 months old. Richardson said he hasn't spoken to them since he left their Gainesville home in 1986.

His small stature, which earned him the street nickname "Shorty Kellem," doesn't help him get work in day-labor jobs. But this time, he hopes a judge will help him get on his feet by ordering him to a work-release program.

"I don't know how to get out of this cycle," said Richardson, explaining that he has to start over every time he's released from jail. "It's wearing me down."

Although life may appear easier behind bars -- the guarantee of three meals a day, a roof over his head and a warm bed to sleep in -- he says he doesn't want to be there.

"I'd rather be walking the streets hungry than full in the jail," Richardson said.

He has past felony convictions on drug charges but says he has been clean for the past four years.

Recurring arrests are hardly limited to Orange County, though its frequent fliers are more prolific than those in some counties. The most-arrested person in Osceola County is Martin Luther Wagner (59 times during the past decade), according to the Osceola County Jail. Wagner also has arrests in Orange County, records show.

In Lake, No. 1 is Thomas Cleveland Bass (52 times). Seminole and Volusia counties were unable to compile similar statistics.

Each time Richardson is picked up by police and hauled off to jail, he loses his few possessions.

When he returns, they have either been tossed out or stolen by other homeless people, who need it, he said. All he owns are the clothes he wore to jail. His identification card expired on his birthday, April 28, so now he doesn't even have that.

"The little stuff I did have is gone," Richardson said.

At the Coalition for the Homeless on West Central Boulevard, clients are offered lockers for a small fee paid by the week or the month. If the rent is not paid, the items are tossed, spokeswoman Muffet Robinson said.

Occasionally, coalition workers will receive a letter or call from the jail asking them to keep the items until the locker renter is out of jail.

"They do what they can to work with the guys," Robinson said. "But we are not a storage facility."

Almost half of the men in the group list the coalition as their home address, according to public records. Privacy policies do not allow the coalition to confirm whether the men are clients.

"It's all trash and litter to most of us, but to them it's their stuff," said Jim Wright, a sociology professor at the University of Central Florida who works with the homeless.

"It must be frustrating as all get out ... when you get arrested and it all disappears."

Although Richardson has grown accustomed to the in-and-out routine, he said he wants change.

Meanwhile, he plans to serve the rest of his several-month sentence.

If anyone is looking for him, he said: "Oh, I'm not hard to find. Just check the jail."

Anthony Colarossi and Gary Taylor of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Bianca Prieto can be reached at or 407-420-5620.

Copyright © 2009, Orlando Sentinel

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Warm Milk and Morphine

Hospitalized briefly in March with minor infection that led to impossibly low blood pressure with a side dish of anemia.

Who knew? Thought feeling faint and listless just result of hangover.

Neighbors called 911 for me and hospitalized for five days.

Roommate for last 3 days: an elderly, insomniac gentleman with penchant for guttural curses and noises and tv viewing all night long, not a prescription for a good sleep.

Took a day for Dr. to authorize sleeping pill. For night without pill, nurse brought me warm milk before morphine shot.

If in Orlando and take sick, I highly recommend Orando Regional Medical Center or whatever they call it nowadays, great food--especially the soups--and staff.

I'd give Fl Hospital ER from previous visit a nod because they have large screen tv's. Food just a touch below ORMC but still really good.

Hope to blog more regularly