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NYC Antiques dealer sues homeless for $1M

January 18, 2007

I heard this on the news this morning and I just couldn’t believe it. I try not to post negative news, but sometimes we need to face the reality in which we live in. As Christians we have to acknowledge the homeless and the poor as our responsibility and as a sign of inequality in our current economic system. We cannot simply ignore them and think that they did something wrong to deserve it. The Church condemns clash of classes and She says that there is a way to achieve harmony between them. However, we cannot get there by ignoring the needs of those who are unprotected. How can one even deny the “individualism” in which we are immersed today represented, in this case, by the antiques dealer?

This is the dealer’s account:

Owner Karl Kemp said he resorted to litigation after repeated complaints to police brought no changes, and he said he was concerned about the health of one of the three men.

Kemp told the New York Post: “You make a wonderful effort to have an attractive window, people come out from the building next door, they don’t see him and they trip over him,” he said. “It happened twice last August. One lady hurt herself.”

The suit says the four have obscured window displays and turned off customers at the shop on Manhattan’s upscale Madison Avenue. It says they “can often be found sleeping on the sidewalk,” “consuming alcoholic beverages from open bottles,” and “performing various bodily functions such as urinating and spitting.”

Kemp’s lawyer, Allan Schiller, said the homeless men and women were “creating a nuisance” by lingering in front of the shop. He said the suit included a claim for $1 million in damages for legal reasons. “The fact is, they are creating a nuisance by standing in front of you constantly.

You are not my guest. I did not invite you here. And they have attached themselves to my client’s property,” Schiller told the Times.

The key word in the last excerpt is “you are not my guest.” Very much against Matthew 25, isn’t it? On the other hand, homeless advocates claim that this lawsuit is mean-spirited:

“Until we see to it that every single homeless individual has a place to stay, this is our reality,” said Shelly Nortz, a deputy executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless. “The complaint that they somehow occasionally occupy a space that is also home to Gucci and Chanel doesn’t mean that they’re breaking any law,” she added.


Read the complete story and readers’ comments at CBSNews.

Update: Natalie of I am becoming all that am I graciously drew our attention to an article on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

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