Davenport Alderman Ray Ambrose's stone-cold poor-shaming is an utter embarrassment.
Ambrose shed any veneer usually hiding the worst aspects of NIMBYism Wednesday, attacking the homeless and a religious center founded to feed them, Timothy’s House of Hope.
Northwest Davenport is no place for bums, Ambrose proudly exclaimed. The homeless are bad for business. They're bad for the aesthetics. They're just plain bad.
“It’s a huge issue with me and I’ll fight it to the very end,” Ambrose said. “I don’t have a warm and fuzzy feeling for the homeless as other people do.”
Seemingly without any sense of irony, Ambrose doubled-down on his poor-shaming on KWQC, clad in a sweatshirt representing St. Raymond Catholic School in Dublin, California. Yes, because Jesus couldn't stand the poor hanging around.
Now that's out of the way, let's broach the real issue at hand.
For years, Timothy's House of Hope has offered a warm meal to the destitute in downtown Davenport. Earlier this month, it moved to Washington Street. City officials on Wednesday shuttered the meal site citing zoning violations.
To be clear, this kind of thing happens all the time. In less antagonistic settings, Pastor Jim Swope would simply seek an exemption from the zoning ordinance. It's not uncommon for cases involving centers for the homeless, drug addicts or other "undesirables" to turn into a local firestorm of Not in My Backyard syndrome.
Even the most charitable tend to get touchy when it's their property value at stake.
This situation is neither new nor extraordinary.
But Ambrose's vocal lack of compassion is exceptional. He boldly pronounced sentiments at which most only hint. Ambrose had no time for subtext.
There's something almost refreshing about Ambrose's candor. Pundits and voters alike regularly lament a politician's unwillingness to lay it all out.
But none of that detracts from the utter loathsomeness of Ambrose's words. It's an unnecessary black eye for a City Council that, earlier this week, lost another member to a felony conviction.
In a fit of rank classism, he lumped an entire population of Davenport's most vulnerable into a caste. And, perhaps of greatest concern, he stated unequivocally that a segment of town isn't welcoming or available to an economic strata. The homeless could be former teachers. They could be out of work laborers. They could be parents. They could be veterans. Maybe drugs or gambling took hold.
Ambrose doesn't know nor much care who they are.
Out of sight, out of mind.
The homelessness problem isn't unique to Davenport. Urban centers across the developed world struggle to respond to the epidemic, and they have for years. Some cities have tried to boot them through unconstitutional crackdowns on panhandling. Others have looked the other way as tent cities sprung up in municipal parks. And some have built full-blown shelters, complete with rehab and educational facilities.
Ambrose isn't interested in any of that, though. His only impulse is to move the poor from his fiefdom and slam the gate. It's a close cousin to the type of thought that's segregated cities and schools by class and race for centuries.
An elected official, Ambrose isn't interested in facing the complicated racial, economic and social web that feeds the homeless crisis. His only concern is making it someone else's problem.