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David Giuliani: A lower moral character?

January 13, 2019

People don’t get to pick their neighbors. But they have some influence in how their neighborhoods change — by voicing their opinions at zoning hearings.

In the first few days of the year, we’ve written a couple stories about proposals that would result in more poor people coming into neighborhoods.

The first story was about Momence, where a developer is proposing to build low-income, senior housing in the residential area next to Berkot’s.

The second was about some west Kankakee residents who expressed opposition to a one-day-per-week homeless shelter in a neighborhood church.

In both cases, opponents raised a basic concern: We won’t know who is coming into the neighborhood.

Of course, are we ever really sure who is moving in? Or visiting?

At a Kankakee City Council meeting this week, residents against the shelter made sure to point out that Kankakee needed a homeless shelter, just not in a residential neighborhood.

They said they thought the shelter should go in a commercial district, like the others.

One woman, though, got emotional in the meeting, accusing the others of being “self-righteous” for opposing a shelter. Once homeless, the woman said most people are one paycheck away from being on the streets.

It’s true people’s finances can turn on a dime. We never know when our health will worsen. And when it does, a person might unexpectedly receive big medical bills, which is the leading cause of bankruptcies in the United States.

At the Kankakee meeting, some of the opponents said they feared their property values would drop. While they might be fine with a shelter, prospective homebuyers might not be. And that means a smaller pool of people interested in their homes. With less demand, prices drop.

And that’s a bad thing for most people because houses typically are their biggest investments.

This all doesn’t change the fact that, as a society, we need to change our views about poor people. A thinner wallet does not translate into a person with a lower moral character, just as a bulging bank account does not mean an inherently better person.

If we understand those simple concepts, maybe some of these disputes about low-income housing will melt away.

A BIG INFLUENCE

The other day, a source told me he believed that some of the major Facebook pages in Kankakee County influence how we cover the news.

He’s right.

Many of our local conversations take place on social media. The major local pages are a source of story ideas. They are a gauge of public opinion.

While many might not like the page administrators or their missions, the fact is that thousands of local residents are tuned in. If the newspaper ignored these discussions, we’d be doing so at our peril. We cover the community as it is.

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