Can’t Have It Both Ways

Posted: September 13, 2008 in Discrimination, Homelessness, Housing, Morality, Stupidity

One of the drawbacks of authoring this blog is that many folks don’t talk to me for the sake of talking to Michael as much as they talk to me for the sake of talking to SLO Homeless. They’ve made me and the blog synonymous with one another. Seldom do they recognize that the blog is only one small part of my life and doesn’t make up the entirety of who I am. So, in some ways, the blog has become somewhat of an albatross around my neck.  

That aside however, considering the number of posts I’ve written and the amount of research I’ve done, most folks realize that my opinions regarding homelessness are fairly well thought out – or at least most of the time they are. It’s difficult to write post after post and not have an occasional post or two which do not "hit the mark" and sort of just ramble on from time to time.

So, when I do end up talking with someone regarding homelessness, most of the time they are surprised – you might even say, shocked – when I come right out and say that I don’t believe that there will ever come a time when homelessness in this nation will be reduced to absolute zero. I usually validate that opinion by saying the reason is because, while the majority of homeless persons would dearly love to have a place to call home, there are nonetheless folks who deliberately choose to be homeless.

There is another reason however, why I feel that homelessness will never be a thing of the past – and that has to do with the local communities themselves, and the prejudiced manner with which so many in a community view their local area homeless.

Yesterday morning, when I published At Arms’ Length, toward the middle of the post I wrote.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve read news article after news article about this city or that community which had plans to create housing to help the homeless. And, invariably those plans have been scrapped. The reason: because someone in the neighborhood where the proposed housing was to be established had "concerns" about putting a homeless shelter or supportive housing for the homeless in that specific neighborhood; they were afraid it would negatively affect property values or other such nonsense.

Late yesterday afternoon, while going through my news alerts, I came across a news article, Residents oppose housing for homeless, from TV-74 in the Traverse City, Michigan region.

The opening sentence read,

Some residents in Otsego County are upset with a planned housing development for individuals suffering from chronic homelessness.

The planned housing development in question would be a 4 unit apartment complex built by the Friendship Shelter and would be directly next door to an existing 4 unit apartment building which the shelter was hoping to refurbish. So a total of 8 apartments would be created as a way to potentially get some homeless folks off the street. However, the plans are being strongly opposed by folks who live in that neighborhood. The reason? Because folks who are currently homeless would be moving into those apartments.

According to the article,

… residents who oppose the plan, say they’re concerned about the close proximity of the apartments to area schools and playgrounds. That’s because they say they’re worried about individuals living there who may have a history of drug addiction or other criminal records.

All of this makes me wonder.

If the criteria of who should be allowed to rent apartments were based on whether a person had an addiction disorder or a past criminal record, just how many apartments all across the nation would remain vacant? I’m willing to bet that there would be quite a number of them because there are certainly housed members of any community who have an addiction disorder and even those that have criminal records.

It quite clear that the folks in that small Michigan town aren’t really concerned about having neighbors who have an addiction disorder or a past criminal record. What they don’t want are persons who are currently homeless moving into their neighborhoods. And that is prejudice. It’s also un-American. Moreover, it’s morally wrong.

The reality of homelessness is this: if we want to reduce the numbers of persons living on the streets of our nation’s cities, then we are going to have to figure out how to get those folks into permanent and stable housing. Homeless shelters are only a temporary solution at best. As such, they do nothing to remedy homelessness.

Despite the huge surge in city after city adopting 10 year plans to end homelessness, if the communities which those plans are being implemented continue to face opposition from the private citizen as to where housing can be placed, then the homeless will continue to have no place to call home.

We cannot continue to moan and gripe about the need to "do something about the homeless" if we ourselves are going to refuse and resist allowing the homeless to have a place to live.

Either we genuinely want to reduce the numbers of homeless in our communities and will allow housing projects to go forward, or we have to be grown up enough to admit that we don’t really give a damn about our homeless.

We can’t have it both ways.

  1. Skye says:

    *blink* But… if they moved into the apartments… they wouldn’t be homeless any more.

    Stupid circular thinking!

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