Proof Enough

Posted: August 3, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Government, Homelessness, Housing, Misconceptions

It never fails.

It seems like every time I write a post where I state that the government is not doing enough to find solutions to homelessness; or that the government is ignoring the needs of the homeless; or – as in the case of yesterday’s post – how the government is trying to mislead the public about just how little has actually been done to significantly reduce the numbers of homeless throughout our communities, I get an email from one or more people who want to argue the issue in favor of the government, or blame homelessness on the homeless themselves.  

While I don’t mind that these folks disagree with what I’ve posted, for some reason these individuals are seldom willing to post their disagreement as a comment. You would think that by now they would know that if they disagree with something I’ve posted, it’s probable that I might just use their email as another way to re-address an issue.

For example: one of the emails I received yesterday from a gentleman named Stan R. in part said this:

"You’re trying to make it seem like the homeless are victims. If they’re homeless it’s their own fault so why should we have to keep paying taxes to support them and help them?"

First of all, I’ve never tried to pretend that every homeless person is a victim. Who better than I – especially since I’ve experienced homelessness first hand – would know that there are those homeless who are so through their own actions? Second, I’ve always been willing to admit that there are those homeless who are content to "sponge" off of the rest of society.

However, there are those homeless who are indeed victims of circumstance; folks who have found themselves homeless due to occurrences that were beyond their ability to control. And, I could give example after example of those who have found themselves calling the streets of our communities’ home due to unforeseeable circumstances.

Over the last several months I’ve written several times about the record levels of unemployment. I’ve also mentioned that certainly some of those folks who have had their homes foreclosed would end up "street" homeless. And, although I didn’t have statistical data to back up my thesis, it was something that I was able to logically conclude using just good old fashioned common sense.

But consider a news article I read just today. The article, Foreclosures, bad economy boost homeless population in Whittier, in the Whittier Daily News had this to say:

Terry Hammack, outreach coordinator for the Whittier Area First Day Coalition, knew it was coming.

So when Hammack met a woman and her teenage son earlier this week asking for money outside a local grocery store, he knew to approach with a gentle touch.

"I could see she was uncertain, and the young man was angry, defensive even," he said.

Hammack said her story of being on the brink of losing her home and having to panhandle to buy food is increasingly common in today’s economic climate.

It turns out that Mr. Hammack, had been homeless himself at one time. His homelessness had lasted two and a half years. And, during the time he had been homeless, he had little hope of ever becoming housed again because of his age.

In addition, Mr. Hammack hadn’t become homeless as a result of an addiction disorder, or because he was lazy, or for any of the other stereotypical beliefs as to why a person becomes homeless. No. He had become homeless due to a financially difficult period.

Also, consider this: according to the National Coalition for the Homeless report, Foreclosure to Homelessness: the Forgotten Victims of the Subprime Crisis, which was just released this past April,

The foreclosure crisis – fueled by the subprime loan meltdown – is increasingly well documented. Nationally, more than two million foreclosures were reported in 2007. Nearly the same number is projected for 2008-2009.

Nearly 61 percent of respondents had seen an increase in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, with only 5 percent indicating that they had not seen an increase. Nearly a third did not know.

The vast majority of respondents [88 percent] offered multiple responses to the question, "Where are people staying after their property has been foreclosed on?" The overwhelming majority [76.2 percent] stated that people were staying with family and friends. More than half [54.5 percent] stated that people were going to emergency shelters. Even more alarming, 41.6 percent said that these individuals and families who had lost their homes were already living on the streets.

Think about that last sentence: "…41.6 percent said that these individuals and families who had lost their homes were already living on the streets."

Re-consider the numbers: 2 million foreclosures during 2007; an additional 2 million foreclosures expected over the next 12 months; and the percentages of folks who are now without a place to call home. Next, take into account how HUD has altered the enumeration methods – by narrowing the criteria – used for counting who is considered homeless, thereby skewing the numbers. And, I’m supposed to pretend that I believe the propaganda fed to the news media by a federal bureaucratic agency that the numbers of homeless in our nation is declining?

I may have been born in the morning – but, it wasn’t this morning.

It doesn’t matter how the federal bureaucracy alters counting methods to skew the numbers. It doesn’t matter what they claim regarding a decrease in homelessness.

The reality on the streets is what matters to the increasing numbers of homeless.

And, more importantly, it should also matter to us. It should matter so much that we should be willing to take action. It should matter to us to the extent that we, as a society, are ready to put forth every effort to help the homeless help themselves.

Homelessness is filled with victims.

The 1.35 million children who will experience homelessness this year are proof enough of that reality.

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