Thursday, January 22, 2009

Not As Easy as 3.14

Originally posted on the "End Homelessness" blog in In response to a post about how getting more housing will end homelessness and a response to that which says that homeless people don't get jobs and so want to be homeless:

1. No one chooses homelessness, at least at first. People are forced to be homeless because they can no longer live at home or because they are forced out of their home. Then they find the homeless community and find that there really is a decent life on the street. Uncomfortable, and an outcast community, but people can often find more family on the street than in a home.

2. Part of the problem is labor. Not just getting a job-- which is almost impossible for a homeless person-- but maintaining it once they get it. If a person is mentally ill they often can't fill out the necessary paperwork and have social problems that create catch-22 situations. If a person is an addict, the last kind of situation we want them to be in is to be in a highly stressed situation with a bunch of money in their pockets-- talk about a recipe for furthering addiction! And for the rest of the homeless, they, for one reason or another, can't work 40 hours a week on a continual basis. It's not a matter of laziness-- trust me, you can't be homeless and lazy, it takes a lot of work-- it's a matter of doing the kind of work people ask folks to do. Not everyone can fill out paperwork and work in four hour blocks with a small break afterwards.

3. Getting housing alone isn't the answer. No matter how much housing there is, the community of homeless that our society has created isn't going to do it. Some people have been on the street long enough that they get claustrophobic in an apartment. Others are so connected to their community, they have a moral requirement to invite all of their addict friends into the apartment with them. Others literally scream in their sleep from past trauma, causing problems for neighbors.

I'm not saying the situation is hopeless. I'm saying it's complicated and no simple solution will solve the reality of an outcast community in our midst. It requires acceptance more than organization, relationship more than politics.

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