Homelessness on GW’s Foggy Bottom campus is a difficult issue to confront, but for the sake of safety, it needs to be addressed.
Many people roaming the streets are hungry, not well-clothed and often afflicted by mental illness. The University should help the District government facilitate means for the homeless to work their way back into society.
As for the immediate future, the campus needs better lighting, especially in park areas, and better patrolling of places where homeless individuals often sleep. GW is a private institution and thus has the right to enforce its property rights and protect its students. Likewise, Metropolitan Police has a duty to enforce vagrancy laws in public places, like sleeping on park benches.
Students feel compassion for the homeless, but at the same time, they cannot surmount the reality that homeless people pose potential risks, of both safety and sanitation. Some aggressive people could threaten students’ safety.
Living in a major city, GW students have to deal with the dilemma of homelessness. Students should be aware of their surroundings, especially at night, but they also have a right to personal safety.
University and Metro police need to enforce already existing vagrancy laws, and GW should create a safer environment with better lighting. But instead of making people who are loitering move to another location, police need to make an effort to help homeless people get shelter and food. Just moving them off campus will not solve the problem, only put them out of mind and sight.
The University must achieve a balance between dealing with the problem of homelessness and protecting its students.