May 1st, 2018
Every morning I wake up with one predominant, yet haunting question: how, in this day and age of human marvel, innovation, and instant action (politically, socially, economically)… how is it homelessness is STILL A REALITY? Yes, I am not blind in seeing this ancient phenomena as a linear or simple crisis; mental health, addiction, & vast economic disparity, all play their roles amongst other things in this tragedy. But still, with all oversimplifications aside, how are there nearly 1.6 billion inhabitants of our planet living in inadequate housing, and of those, approximately 150 million homeless, when, at the same time we happily spend billions on a manned mission to mars?
Is there not a better way, we, as local and global communities, can be dealing with the abject crisis of homelessness in our midst?
Recently, two stories have troubled me greatly, catching the eye of many. First, Los Angeles. In just six years, LA’s homeless population has increased by a shocking 75%. For such a progressive city, and state for that matter, I was absolutely blown away by the images of Angels Stadium Anaheim, completely engulfed by an endless field of tents and other makeshift shelters. Furthermore, the resultant expulsion and community outcry over a proposed homeless shelter really brought this to the level of national crisis in the US.
Did local officials in LA miss the mark by simply not seeing the coming statistical storm, or did they blatantly ignore the homeless? Either way, what has resulted is a nightmare, one in dire need of a radical solution. In my own community, a local housing resource centre and dual-sex emergency shelter was forced to close it’s seven (7) female beds – which, I might add from personal experience, provides an invaluable service to our community. Again, is this as a result of government officials not understanding how bad the situation is, or an actual attempt to systemically ignore the growing problem? How again can this actually be happening in 2018?
In this world of such magic and marvel, where literally any dream is achievable as history has proven, I believe that ending global homelessness, ONCE AND FOR ALL, is not only an end worth seeking, but one we cannot afford to ignore any longer.
So what would our local and global communities look like without chronic homelessness, inadequate housing for the poorest 20%, and an end to the cycle of systemic oppression built around a general lack of access to affordable housing? In one word – healthier. In my opinion, the social, economic, and system wide benefits far outweigh the current means of tackling this crisis. It may seem too simple; however, living in a state of perpetual “survival” breaks us down; forcing us into places we would not need to go if there was a solid foundation under out feet.
So, what is the grand solution you might ask? In all honesty, I’m not sure at this point… that will come. What I am sure of however is that homelessness, in all of its nasty guises and forms, needs to no longer be a reality in the great human saga.
My own context & perspective is from the frontline, working at an “Emergency Housing Program” which provides emergency shelter, housing support, and stabilization and is facilitated by the Salvation Army in Canada & Bermuda Territory.