We are in an era at the moment where the super trendy homeless strategy is “Housing First.”
Get people the stability of housing. And then they have the safety, security and mental space to think about their mental health issues, physical health issues and addiction issues.
This makes a lot of sense.
But now we’re so invested in Housing First that there is nothing else discussed.
You are either in a house or…
There is no “or”. You just need to get in a house.
This causes endless issues.
In places like California there simply is not enough housing.
In places like Akron Ohio there is simply not enough housing.
And this is the problem. There is not enough housing anywhere.
Whether your city has 60,000 homeless or 600 homeless the issue is the same: there is not enough housing.
Housing First advocates will say that all resources need to be focused on getting more housing. If we spend money on anything other than housing we are simply wasting time and money.
This is theoretically interesting. But in the meantime there are people (real, live men, women and children) stranded on the streets. They are American born refugees.
The people who care about the homeless look at them in bewilderment. And the people who don’t care about them look at them in disgust.
But very few people look at them with a plan.
The Catholic Worker Movement has an innovative plan. They move the homeless into their houses. Anyone can start a Catholic Worker House. You can learn more about setting one up here.
L.A. county is offering up to $75,000 to put a “granny flat” in your backyard as long as you rent it to homeless people.
Seattle now has 6 city-sanctioned tent cities.
But then the ideas quickly fall off the cliff. We just start scratching our heads. And most cities in America aren’t thinking about this at all.
If 500,000 refugees flooded into America tomorrow we would be setting up FEMA trailers and the Red Cross would be on the spot immediately. But America’s 500,000 homeless people don’t get that kind of treatment. We focus on all the problems of helping the homeless instead.
You see stories like this one over and over again. Some good Samaritan builds a shelter for a homeless person. And then the city comes along and either tears it down or confiscates it because “it’s not safe.”
What is not safe is living on the street.
You sleep with one eye open all the time. You are vulnerable from every angle. You are out there alone with thieves and murderers. And in the winter you are living exposed to brutal cold and wind.
Telling a homeless person that a wooden shelter is not safe would be like telling you your car is not safe and therefore we must take it away from you.
You can read about LA taking away shelters here: LA Officials Bring The Hammer Down On Tiny Houses For Homeless.
We know very well how many people in America feel about guns. Can you imagine the uprising if a city official came by and took all your guns because they weren’t safe?
But wooden shelters are taken away from homeless people every single day in America “because they aren’t safe.”
This strategy also means that they are therefore saying the street is safe.
That is an ignorance that defies even the most basic common sense.
- Report: 80 homeless people died on Portland streets in 2016 | Fox News
- One homeless person a week dies in Sacramento County, report shows | The Sacramento Bee
- Number of homeless people dying in Denver has increased “dramatically” according to local organization | FOX31 Denver
If you have a building inspector declare a shelter unsafe then a social worker should be able to follow immediately behind and declare the street unsafe. Those two people should then come to a conclusion of where this person can safely go.
But that’s not the way it works. There are merely laws about the safety of a structure. We have no laws about the safety of the street. So therefore they are sent to the street and everyone feels satisfied that they have done their job.
We cannot be satisfied with people living on the street because we don’t have the creativity, vision or even moral compass to say “this isn’t right. We can do better.”
We wouldn’t allow children to be sent out onto the street because we couldn’t find a foster home for them.
We wouldn’t allow stray dogs to be sent out onto the street because we are out of cages at the dog pound for them.
We wouldn’t allow immigrants to be sent out onto the street because we don’t have housing for them.
We wouldn’t allow dementia patients to be sent out onto the street because we don’t have a facility for them.
But yet somehow we find it completely acceptable to take our most poor, our most down and out, our most downtrodden and send them out onto the street.
How did we get here? How did we bend our moral judgement to find this acceptable because we are perplexed by the complication of this issue?
Human morality can easily be tricked.
Germany in World War II. Japanese internment camps in America in World War II. The Native American Trail of Tears in the 1800s. Slavery.
We repeatedly allow bad things to happen to other humans and rationalize it as some sort of necessary evil.
Homelessness in America today is one of these rationalized falsehoods. There is no moral justification in any imaginable scenario that this could ever possibly be acceptable.
I guarantee you that people will look back at the 1980s to 202os as an era of great embarrassment for America.
This is not an impossible problem. It is 500,000 people out of 325 million people. I guarantee it’s not exactly 325 million people either. It’s probably give or take 500,000 people.
500,000 people showed up for the Women’s March on January 20 2018 in L.A.
“From 1990 to 1995, an average of about 112,000 refugees arrived in the U.S. each year.”
So, in 5 years we managed to handle well over 500,000 refugees. Yet somehow we still have 500,000 homeless people. And don’t get me wrong, we can handle refugees AND we can handle our homeless.
We are just choosing NOT to handle our homeless.
This is not right.
Ethiopia is hosting 847,200 refugees. Ethiopia has a $72.37 billion gross domestic product. USA has $18.57 trillion gross domestic product.
If Ethiopia has somehow managed to host over 800,000 refugees, America should be able to somehow fix its 500,000 homeless person issue.
The people of America just have to decide we are better than this.
We can’t allow ourselves to fall into an intellectual trap that these people either get a house or they get on the street. That is a false premise. To believe this issue is binary, black or white, yes or no, is a logical fallacy. It’s a clever trick meant to fool people.
“Since we can’t get these people into houses we have no solution for them.” That’s simply incorrect and ridiculous.
This is not a black and white issue. We’ve only made it black and white. There is plenty of gray that can be explored.
We, as a society, have to tell our homeless advocates and our political leaders that we must look for creative alternatives for the homeless of America. We cannot stand by as our brothers and sisters rot on the street while the rest of us scratch our heads.