Almost every wild creature on the planet has a home of some kind. Hermit crabs have their shells, clown fish have their reefs, and even nomadic creatures like elephants have the safety of the herd to go back to at night. Yet, no one can explain why or how over 550,000 people living in the U.S are without stable housing (State of Homelessness, 2018). This figure may not seem like much when compared to the rest of the general population, however, when one considers that 40,000 of those homeless are War Veterans, who fought for our country, the numbers seem to mean more. Please take a second to contemplate the thought of a well-known War Veteran in the community or a family member struggling to find housing. Now, imagine how devastating it would be to see them on a street corner with nothing but a blanket to keep them warm.
If those facts do not ignite the drive in you to spark change in your community then please take the time to understand that 41,000 children and young adults are also homeless and do not have permanent homes along with the support of family members (State of Homelessness, 2018).
What truly instills my inner ambition to help change this is that when I was a child, I couldn’t dress, care for, or financially provide myself without my parents. I can’t begin to imagine how I would get by on my own with no home to go to, no one to comfort me, and no one to love me as a child. I can’t imagine what my childhood would’ve been like without my parents, or my childhood home.
Have you ever taken the time to speak to the homeless, to learn about their story? I did once, and it changed my entire perspective and outlook on homelessness. It was early April and it was very cold out, I was out and I was going to go buy snacks and I saw a man right outside sitting on the curb of the convenience store that I go to. My heart felt heavy seeing him shiver in 50-degree weather because he was wearing nothing but a thin worn out shirt and a pair of brown pants.
As I got closer, I noticed that his sneakers were worn out to the point that duct tape was being used to hold his shoes together. When I looked at his face, however it was clean, and he did his best to keep his long hair in place by pulling it back into a bun. His concentration was so absorbed in trying to contain any warmth in his hands that he did not notice me, until I was directly in front of him. I immediately knew what I wanted to do with the money that I was going to use at the store. It was almost an instinct to place it into his hands and quietly walk away. There is a disconnect between society and their knowledge regarding the homeless. Too often the focus is on statistics and numbers, rather than the actual people. How can we be proud of ourselves if we cannot help our own despite our blessings? What is the point of having the power and intelligence to venture into the stars and build technological marvels if we forget our humanity along the way?
One issue that I noticed with people not wanting to help with the homeless, is the preconceived notion about why they are homeless to begin with. The stigma that the homeless do not want the responsibility of a nine-to-five job or that they are all lazy is very popular in the American society. The paradox is that our homeless are typically discriminated against at job interviews because of the lack of stable housing and their unkempt appearance. In essence, the people that need these opportunities the most are prejudiced through the misconception of how one may become homeless. Unfortunately, Several of these people are war veterans suffering from PTSD due to their service for our country. Homeless children also lack the necessary skills to work and cannot afford the materials or requirements to attend public schools to acquire such skills. Thus, the idea that all homeless are skilled persons with full body functionality is a smoke screen to obscure an unpleasant reality. Our homeless are comprised, in most part, of people who do not have the proper resources to take care of themselves and need our assistance. In conclusion, This means that a main reason for the extensiveness of homelessness is that we are failing our obligation to reach out and help our fellow Americans.
It is one thing to talk about homelessness and quote statistics; however, it is another matter to actively work on a solution to remedy this national problem. Unfortunately, there are no immediate fixes to this issue that will resolve homelessness overnight. It takes the efforts of those in positions of influence and power to act to achieve any meaningful progress in reducing the amount of people who become homeless in our country.
I have come up with a temporary solution to help get people off the streets and into homes that they can live reasonably comfortably. Currently there are over 5.8 million vacant homes in the US that are off market and have no pending occupants (Kimble, M., 2018). They are held in vacancy by the government and each year they continue to cost the government thousands of dollars in lost revenue and property taxes. It would stand to reason that if such houses were available, each city could turn its charity efforts into the restoration of these houses to temporarily house the homeless until they can better their own situation. Leaving these establishments vacant will inevitably reduce the value of neighboring properties and of entire neighborhoods (Florida, R, 2018). Over time, those vacant homes become vacant neighborhoods, in turn become run down cities and towns which in fact increases violence and crime across the board. Making use of these vacant homes as shelters and access points for our homeless, allows the government to control the market value of properties in certain areas and reduce the cost of taxes on the public over time.
Furthermore, If every American was to donate a mere 25 cents towards this housing initiative for our homeless, there would be enough money to renovate and refurbish several homes country wide to make them safe havens for people (U.S. Population, 2017).
So, I urge you to ask yourself: Ask yourselves is 25 cents too much to give to change someone’s life? I have faith in the people of this great nation and I would hope that if I were out on the streets looking for a place to stay, someone would care enough to donate 25 cents into a project that could save my life. Mother Theresa once said, We can do no great things, only small things with great love (Homeless Quotes. 2018). All that is required of us in this life is to be human. If we fail at that then why are we here in the first place?