Friday, during a short walk downtown, I got to see a few new things, and one really sad thing. There are a few new restaurants open or opening, and lots of road construction and improvements. Unfortunately, as with most major cities, and even some smaller cities, the homeless population has increased exponentially. I’ve not seen so many people pushing their belongings around, sleeping on the sidewalk and in garages, and asking for money for food. It was sad on many levels.
The first level was the plight of our fellow humans. I know there are most likely some people who choose to be homeless. Most though, from my readings, are homeless because of one major unexpected event in their lives. So many of us are just one paycheck away from not being able to pay a bill, or one major medical bill our insurance won’t cover for some asinine reason.
The second level was the economic impact on a downtown. It was a little scary walking around because of the panhandling and comments when not giving, or the homeless with mental illness who come at you for no apparent reason. Who wants to come downtown to eat, attend an event, let alone live when there is a feeling of not being safe. It is also a little uncomfortable, in all honesty. Not because of a perception of lack of safety, but because it can be uncomfortable in not being able to help, and in being glad it isn’t yourself being homeless.
The third level is actually anger. Anger knowing the vast majority of homelessness can be prevented. If we had universal health care, expensive co-pays would be gone. If we had an extensive mental health system, people thought of as being crazy, might have needed therapy and/or medication. If we had employers who actually paid a living wage and offered true full-time positions, people would be able to cover bills and put some funds away in savings. If we had affordable housing, or even temporary affordable housing, people could get a fresh start building either equity in their own home, or add to savings to find an apartment or have a down-payment for a home.
Someone I know holds Elon Musk in high esteem and believes Musk is building affordable housing. In doing research this evening, this is actually not a fact. Musk, along with Bezos, Zuckerberg, Bloomberg, Koch, and the Waltons all have more money than they will ever be able to spend, nor many generations to come of their families will ever be able to spend. If they, in my own opinion, really cared about people and wanted to leave a lasting legacy, they would be active in finding, building, renovating, and creating free or low-cost temporary housing, and partnering with builders to subsidize affordable housing to allow more people to own their own homes to begin building generational wealth.
It isn’t just the billionaires of the world, it is also government that is failing us. In Indiana, it recently had a $6.1B surplus. So, instead of investing in school buildings, affordable and temporary housing, roads and other infrastructure needs, the decision was made by elected officials to send some of it back to taxpayers, at least $1B of it. It sounds nice, but in reality it’s a band-aid influx that may help families in the short-term, but will cost us much more in the future when a bridge collapses or we lose an axle due to a pothole in the road.
For the Federal government, families currently (guidelines are being examined at this time by the Biden administration) must choose between receiving Section 8 housing assistance or helping out a family member with a felony criminal record. This means some single moms, who want to bring their broken family back together after their significant other (husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, wife) is released to begin the healing process, and help with bills, can’t do so. Thus, the brokenness continues due to the Federal government.
Homelessness is a both a complex and a simple issue. Complex in how someone becomes homeless. Simple in that people with money, or people who control large amounts of money, either don’t want to help fellow humans in how they use their money, or the policies created to manage money.
It can be solved, and progress can be made fairly quickly, but it needs to be a priority. The factors for homelessness, such as universal health care, can be passed fairly easily. Lots is said about homelessness, but in the end, it is all talk and no action.
It’s time for the action.