Editor, Daily Nexus:

So, my friend’s homeless. Actually, a bunch of my friends are homeless. Some don’t even like the term homeless, because it’s a term created by our culture. Who’s to say somebody can’t have a home simply because they don’t pay the rent? However, from the knowledge I’ve picked up from my friends, it’s not so much living day to day, sleeping outside, finding work when possible and searching for food that bothers them. It’s all the shit tacked on to the label of “homelessness” by people in the community and by our government.

Did you know it’s illegal to be homeless? If you’re homeless is Isla Vista and you get caught sleeping at night, it’s considered camping, and camping is against the law. If you decide to try to work take care of some other business throughout the day, and you stash some belongings in the park, the Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District will throw away whatever it finds. It’s considered policy. If you happen to make it downtown and decide to sit on a particular street corner, you’re bound to pick up a ticket under the no-sitting ordinance on State Street – that is, if you’re homeless or even look like you might be. And lastly, if you have a dog, you can never take it off its leash as long as it’s alive because it’s illegal, unless you have a yard or living space to do so.

So, essentially, if you find yourself homeless, you can’t sleep, you can’t take your dog off a leash, you can’t store your belongings and you can’t sit in certain places among other things. A human right becomes a crime, and this doesn’t just happen in Santa Barbara, but all across the country. What ends up happening to many homeless people who receive tickets for such infractions, which they cannot possibly afford, is that the ticket goes to warrant. When you have a warrant, a police officer can pick you up at any given moment and take you to jail to serve time for unpaid tickets. This usually amounts to a few days behind bars, capping off the revolving door of a ticket, warrant and then jail time.

These people are criminalized for unfortunate turns in life or for choosing to live a lifestyle not congruent with the proper way of living in America. This only adds to the stress that homeless people deal with on a daily basis. My friends have been kicked out of local restaurants (even though they were paying customers), they’ve been harassed by police, they’ve had bottles thrown at them from students and they’ve been made out to be fools on IVTV. Many people think of them as nonhuman. And we wonder why people on the street resort to alcohol?

I’m not saying each person on the street is a saint, because obviously everyone has a different story and a different outlook. But, I am saying that homeless people exist in this community who have much to communicate and share, who care about Isla Vista, who can teach us a lot if we only listened and who deserve something better than criminalization.

For this reason and others, I marched for economic justice downtown last Saturday alongside my friends, who fight each day because of the label of homelessness. I marched for justice on many fronts, such as housing, a safe environment and women’s rights, but my heart was with my friends. For more information on the march, see www.peoplesmarch.org.

Chris Omer is a senior environmental studies major.