Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A student considers the problem of homelessness

In this reaction essay, the student stresses the inability (or unwillingness) of persons to empathize with others who are homeless. 

The first thing that pops up in my mind when the word homeless is spoken, just like anyone else, is that they are lazy, not trying to find a job, a beggar, an alcoholic, an uneducated, filthy, hoarder of junk.  “Normal” people try to avoid them at all cost and do not want anything to do with them. A normal person would not even try to help a homeless person get back on their feet because they did it to themselves.  If they tried harder to maintain and keep their job or if they were not lazy they would not be in this mess and still have a job and a home to go to at the end of the day.  If they had stayed in school, worked hard for their grades, and actually cared about school, then they would be smart enough to keep a job to pay the bills on the house. This isn’t the attitude or impression I want to have, or choose to have, but I think this is an impression that is widespread in the culture, and so it comes to my mind. 

  People don't think of the homeless as individuals, nor do people realize how these people became homeless.  If you are not in that situation, then how can you fully understand the root cause of homelessness and how these people became homeless?  The politicians that make the laws that prevent homeless people from begging or making camps in public places do not understand what these people are dealing with because of the fact that the politicians themselves are not homeless.  They do not provide an alternative solution to these laws because they have a nice warm comfy bed to sleep in at night inside of a safe home.  They eliminate the ability for homeless people to make camps for themselves but do not provide an alternate place for them to retreat to, so in the end, the homeless are still living outside without a camp to sleep inside. 

 Yes, there are homeless shelters for “these people” to live in, but there are only a curtain number of beds and these shelters can only support a fraction of the homeless population.  So where are they supposed to go, back to the camps that they have made in public places like parks and on the streets? No, that is not an option because there is a law preventing them from making something that they can sleep in at night! Yes, we have created alternative housing projects to help the homeless population to get off the streets and to try and provide a safe place for these people to live.  Unfortunately, there is still homelessness in this country, people going without a house to sleep in, food to eat at night, and a job to go to in the morning. 

 If we as a country really care about eliminating homelessness by creating soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and alternative housing, then why is it that there are still people who are homeless?  Maybe there is an underlining issue that we have not figured out yet, like transportation/communication issues.  Why cant Sally get to work (because she does not have a car) and why cant I get a hold of her to ask why she has not shown up on time (because she does not have a cell phone, or any phone)?  Her poverty will cause her to lose her job because she showed up late to work too many times and there is no way to get a hold of her. 

I know that I cannot fix homelessness by myself and I understand that I do not have all of the answers to create the best possible solution to this problem, but we can still try to work to eliminate as much homelessness as possible.

The one-night census of shelters in the USA conducted in January of 2015 counted 564,708 homeless persons. A survey in 2014 estimated there were 7 million Americans living doubled up with family or friends to avoid becoming homeless.  The End Homelessness Grand Challenges paper (2015) estimates over the course a year, 1.5 million Americans experience at least a day of being homeless. This is a high degree of homelessness.  The initial thoughts that “pop into your mind” about homelessness must be what many people think, because how else can we explain the fact that there is widespread demand to provide stable permanent housing for everyone and end homelessness? In 1948 our delegation at the United Nations endorsed the United Declaration of Human Rights (which Americans had a large hand in writing), and that document says that one of the fundamental rights of being a human is having a place to call home.

Providing permanent housing costs about $13,000 to $25,000 per person, but providing services and processing homeless persons who are not in permanent housing tends to cost $35,000-$40,000, up to $150,000 for some homeless persons who get lots of contact in emergency rooms and with police. It costs less to just provide housing for people and help them remain in a permanent housing solution, but Americans are not demanding this.  Certainly, there is something wrong with “normal” people as you describe them.

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