Homelessness in America
Homelessness is not something that was created over night; it has existed for a long time; often we choose not to see the homeless, or bother with them, so we look the other way. Homelessness is not prejudice toward race, creed, or religion--it has no boundaries; all homeless people should not be stereotyped as being drug abusers or the mentally ill that have been released from mental hospitals. Homelessness is not a disease that a person can catch from bodily contact, but it certainly has afflicted many Americans. We need to find the cause of homelessness before we can find a solution. More money for more programs is the typical response, but we should look at what has already been instituted and reevaluate them.
Homelessness could affect you or me at any time if we live from week to week, or check to check. Jonathan Perkins says the homeless were not "people like you and me" (666) who simply had fallen on hard times. Contrary to Perkins’ statement, some of the homeless are people like you and me; as Linda Weltner illustrates in her essay, "How She Became Homeless" (669), Adrienne, a bright, ambitious young lady found herself facing homelessness for the second time in her young life. Adrienne was not mentally ill or a substance abuser; she was like you and me. Weltner says, "the money spent on three months’ emergency housing for Adrienne could have provided a $500 monthly housing voucher to a family for a year" (671). The fundamental cause of homelessness is the inability to pay for housing due to inadequate income to meet basic needs. The emergency housing program needs to be reevaluated; the money is not being used wisely.
We cannot ignore the problem of homelessness; we have to find programs that work. In many homeless cases, a cycle does exist—that cycle must be broken. On an individual basis, we can get involved with some the homeless programs through local organizations at church, homeowners associations, schools, sororities, and fraternities—we must combat homelessness. If combating homelessness means higher taxes to prevent families living under bridges, living in cardboard make shift homes, eating discarded scrapes, then let’s pay higher taxes. We need to provide more family shelters, so the children get an education and the parents regain some of their dignity and find employment. Employment of the homeless would not only take them off the streets, but also would strengthen the economy.
Society can no longer look the other way; as we drive the freeways of our great country, homelessness is everywhere. In a 1992 survey, conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the mayors found that 28 percent of the homeless population in the cities were mentally ill and 41 percent substance abusers (Perkins 667). Even if these numbers were true, the other remaining percentage is begging for our help, and I don’t mean welfare. There are success stories of homeless people who once received government assistance and now have meaningful lives again. Those once homeless people represent what a strong country like America can do for her own, if we work together.
Permanent solutions most ensure affordable housing, adequate income, access to available social services, including mental health care, and substance abuse treatment. Reintegrate the homeless into society by job training, providing an overall sense of personal worth. Homelessness will never be eradicated, because some mentally ill and drug abusers prefer the independent lifestyle, but there are other homeless people who need and want our help. Get involved; we never know when we will live from check to check; remember there is a cause and there is a solution—homelessness has no boundaries.
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