Why Do Some People Object To Helping The Homeless?

Posted: February 23, 2010 in Compassion, Discrimination, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality, Stereotypes

When it comes to addressing homelessness, one of the biggest obstacles faced by many communities has to do with the providing of homeless support services (HSS).

Most folks are in agreement that the issue needs to be "dealt" with. But when the building of either a shelter or drop in day center is proposed, or when it’s suggested that there needs to be an increase of services, the community is often times opposed to the idea.

There are numerous reasons why some folks in any given community are against expanding services – or even providing any type of HSS altogether.

That being the case, I thought I’d address a few of what I believe are the more common of objections.  

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Not In My Backyard (NIMBY)

The Not In My Backyard argument is – by far and away – the most common objection used by folks opposed to providing services for the homeless.

These folks will complain bitterly that something needs to be done about the homeless (whom they often refer as those people). They go to great lengths to make themselves appear as though they are not uncaring. Yet, these same folks are the ones who object the loudest when local governments propose the building or expanding of shelter facilities or other homeless support services.

In truth, despite what folks with a NIMBY mindset may claim, their desire is to have the homeless leave community altogether – preferably to some other city.

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It costs too much.

Some folks oppose the idea of providing services for the homeless based on the idea that it would cost the local community too much in public funding.

Studies have already shown that it costs a community far more to continue having folks living on the streets than it would to fund programs which could provide the means for their local homeless to achieve some measure of self-sustenance and, ultimately, housing of their own.

In those U.S. cities which have a functioning 10-year plan to end homelessness they have been successful at reducing the numbers of homeless living on the streets. Moreover, by using a housing first approach they have saved local taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually – and in some cases, millions of dollars each year.

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Providing services will draw more homeless to the community.

This is an If you build it, they will come mindset. However, it is an erroneous belief.

If folks took the time to read the Homeless Enumeration Reports for their area, they would discover that the majority of the homeless in their community are actually locals. They are folks who were a part of the community before they became homeless.

The reality is that most homeless do not migrate to different cities in search of homeless support services.

There is actually simple reason why it appears as though providing and/or expanding services increases homelessness in a community. But it has nothing to do with an influx of homeless from elsewhere.

Consider that most communities do not have anywhere near enough resources to provide services for every one of their local homeless.

The homeless themselves are very much aware of the lack of available resources within their community. As a result, a fair number of them will not even bother trying to get services. Subsequently, they aren’t visibly seen heading out to local shelters or to any of the other HSS organizations.

However, once they learn that there are additional resources available, they know that they have somewhat better odds of receiving services. That in turn, causes them to try and avail themselves of those resources. It is this which gives the "appearance" that there has been an increase of homeless that have seemingly come from "out of town" seeking services.

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Sooner or later, we are going to have to come to terms with homelessness. And we are going to have to provide the resources necessary to empower each and every homeless person who wants to get off the streets with a viable opportunity do so.

But before we can do that, we are going to have to move beyond our personal objections to providing effective and meaningful homeless support services to those who live on the streets of our communities.

Continually raising objections to providing services to assist the homeless doesn’t solve the issue.

All it does is put our arrogance on display for all the world to see.

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Comments
  1. jeff greer says:

    thanks for this post Michael!
    it really points to a problem that i think is so prevalent in our society.  it really stems from the fact that people don’t see the homeless as people that are on the same level as them. they look down on them as ‘lesser beings’.
    many feel that they deserve the plight that has befallen them.  they see them as a problem to be solved and not fellow human beings…a fellow part of the greater community.
    as long as that continues, the excuses will remain and people will continue to push the homeless away without ever having to get near enough to really care!  as long as we don’t have to recognize them as individual people, with a name and a story, we can sweep them under the rug as an issue or a problem to be ‘dealt with’.
    if people took the time to actually talk to and listen to someone who was homeless, that perspective would begin to change.  they would no longer have an excuse to not help those who are on the streets.  they would see how much they have in common… and it is that commonality that would no longer allow them to remain indifferent, but it would compel them to begin seeing those who sleep outside as people worthy of being cared for and loved and treated as equals.
    sadly, until that happens, people will still continue see homelessness as just an annoying problem to be fixed! 

  2. Bri says:

    This is such a great post. OK if I link to it in an upcoming blog? Glad to see you back posting (though I know how busy you are); missed you!

  3. Rev. Cynthia says:

    This is EXACTLY the mentality I saw in Ojai (California), when I was homeless there for 3 months in the winter of 2007. Their system has folks moving from church floor to church floor every single night. At that time, there was an old tiny RV being taken to the various church parking lots and that is where people showered, one at a time. Each church would host 1-2 dinners & breakfasts a week. Their “shelter caravan” is only open from November to March and their preference would be to have everyone, who is homeless in their community, go down the hill to the shelter in Ventura. In such a wealthy town, this scene was difficult to comprehend.

  4. Steven says:

    Good to see folks I know from previous engagements doing stuff online again! Wanted Hope everyone is well and loved the post, Michael!
    Peace to you all!

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