Or perhaps I should write persecuted? Recently, I discussed how the poor are prosecuted simply for being poor. The story of Methodist pastor Lorenza Andrade-Smith, who, in ministering to the homeless, sold her belongings and renounced her health insurance, provides a shocking example of this (boldface mine):
On Aug. 3, 2011, she was cited for sleeping on a bench near the Alamo in San Antonio. The night before, she went to the Haven for Hope homeless shelter, where she had been sleeping….
At around ten o’clock the next morning, she was confronted by a police officer. “I apparently overslept,” she said. “The police officer suggested that I go to the haven, and gave me the ticket,” she recalled.
“I had to go see the judge, and I did that. The judge ordered me to perform community service.”
In an ironic twist, the judge ordered her to perform ten hours of community service at the very same shelter she had been staying at.
She refused to comply with the judge’s order.
“It was this criminalization of those who are poor that I was trying to protest,” she said, explaining, “all I do is community service.”
As a result, a warrant was issued for her arrest.
“I turned myself in, and went to jail,” she said. “After a few hours, I was told to leave, and that I was going to be fined.
“I actually don’t have money to pay the fine, of course, so there’s already another warrant out.”
So, Andrade-Smith said, “I need to go back and turn myself in. I’m intentional about going through the process to see what homeless people go through.”
“My concern is not my arrest,” she said, “it’s with the indifference about people who are poor and living on the streets. There’s a whole new landscape with people living on the streets in the United States,” she observed, noting that the economic recession had plunged some middle class families into poverty.
As Rev. Andrade-Smith notes, she has support she can fall back on. But too many people get trapped in this spiral, and are never able to climb back out.