Homelessness Means: Without Housing

Posted: August 16, 2008 in Discrimination, Homelessness, Housing, Misconceptions

Okay, so I’m a news junkie.

It just so happens that I like to know what is going on in the world. I like to be able to make informed choices and formulate opinions on more than just speculation. I must admit though, there are times when reading or watching the news is a major irritant.  

But then there are days, like today, when after reading the headlines and watching the various news channels all of sudden a thought – completely unrelated to the stories themselves – pops into my head.

For example –

Right now, North Carolina’s Democratic Senator John Edwards is being raked over the coals for being an adulterer. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. He’s being raked across the coals for lying. If he had just come right out and admitted that he’d had an extra-marital affair – although most folks would have not liked that – life could have gone on as usual. What got Edwards in hot water was the lying.

Then there is the case of a man in Massachusetts who has been passing himself off as a member of the Rockefeller family – and who kidnapped his own son. Now it turns out he’s some kind of German war criminal.

In Georgia, there are a couple of men who claim that they have the frozen body of Bigfoot inside a freezer at a "secret and non-disclosed" location. Uh-huh. I believe that like I believe that there are little green men on Mars.

Also in Georgia, there is a man who kept his own family prisoner in a "trash filled" mobile home for three years. Nice guy, huh? Yes sir. He’s real winner, isn’t he?

In Michigan, Detroit’s Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, will soon be standing trial to face charges of assault.

In Los Angeles, a man was charged with two counts of felony for animal cruelty and for threatening his girlfriend. He killed her cat, by the way. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

And finally, in Texas, a 35 year old woman has been jailed for making her 12 year old daughter drive her to a bar.

Now… the question is: what do all of these people have in common?

The answer: they all have a place to live. They aren’t homeless.

This makes me have to ask this question: since all of these "fine upstanding citizens" who I’ve been reading about quite obviously aren’t exactly "fine upstanding citizens," does this mean that anyone who has a place to live isn’t a fine upstanding citizen or is an unwholesome individual?

When you think about it, most of the news articles regarding folks who are committing these "bad things" are folks who have housing. If I were to base my perception of the moral integrity of folks who are housed, supported only by a handful of news articles, I could easily conclude that every person who has a "home" is basically a criminal of some sort.

But, we all know that’s nonsense. Just because there are a small percentage of housed citizens who are committing crimes, it does not mean that everyone who has a place to call home is a criminal. Therefore it would be patently unfair to classify or group all housed members of society as being of the criminal type. Wouldn’t it?

Yet, that’s exactly what we do with our nation’s homeless. We stereotype an entire segment of the American pubic based on the "bad behavior" of a small percentage of individuals.

There are indeed those homeless who are nothing more than social leeches; content to "sponge off" of the rest of society; too irresponsible to want to be held accountable for their actions. And yes, there are those homeless who want nothing more than to lay around in a drunken stupor. And there are even those homeless who choose to be homeless. But they represent only about 6 percent of the entire homeless population.

Why then, do we seem content to penalize the remaining 94 percent of the homeless for the actions of a few?

Could it be that we haven’t made the time to understand what homelessness is; or why people become homeless in the first place; or what types of circumstances can lead to homelessness?

It’s pretty much a given that most folks believe that something needs to be done to rid our communities of homelessness. But, trying to get the homeless to leave town isn’t the solution. Neither is allowing our elected officials to enact local ordinances which penalize or restrict the activities of the homeless.

The surest – and only proven – method for reducing the numbers of homeless is by providing the resources to get those folks back into stabilized housing.

That’s really what homelessness means: without housing.

And until we learn that lesson, the numbers of homeless will continue to rise.

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