In response to the letter to the editor, “Life isn’t free; it’s time for community to teach that.”
The letter in Saturday’s edition of The Record describes the writer’s wish that people experiencing homelessness need to be taught “a little responsibility” shows a lack of understanding about the etiologies of homelessness.
According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the main causes for (non-family) homelessness are: “Lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, mental illness and the lack of needed services, and substance abuse and the lack of needed services.”
You’ll notice that nowhere on that list is a mention of laziness, indolence or lack of responsibility.
So let’s go through the list.
Lack of affordable housing affects millions of Americans.
Too many spend too much on rent.
If you’re spending over half your money on rent, you won’t be able to save up for when a crisis strikes, such as a costly medical bill or a car breaking down.
You’ll be left with no money and a landlord who may evict you. There are also the problems of wage stagnation, redlining and the disenfranchisement of felons.
I can’t get into all of these but I suggest you look into them!
Unemployment may be caused by a number of factors. But if you’re homeless and you can’t take a shower anywhere or get clothes for an interview, how are you supposed to get a job?
People of color are also routinely hired less frequently than their white counterparts with similar qualifications.
Poverty is not a concrete thing like unemployment or lack of affordable housing because unemployment contributes to poverty, and lack of affordable housing is a symptom and cause of poverty.
It is generally living in squalor and being unable to afford the necessities that every human being is entitled to because they are alive—food, water, and shelter.
Mental illness is an illness like any other that needs monitoring by professionals. It is stigmatized and often vilified in our society.
A person with schizophrenia may be unable to afford their medication because of the above issues.
The same goes for the alcoholic or drug addict; after all, addiction is an illness as well.
All of this is to remind each and every one of you that the responsibility of homelessness does not rest on the shoulders of a single person. It is often the system that causes homelessness.
Now you may be thinking, “but they should at least try to get help!” But it is the system’s responsibility to fix the problem that it created. Resting the onus of clawing their way out of poverty and homelessness on the victim of our broken system is just wrong.
The author of the editor to the letter is right about a few things: we should allow people to trade in clothing for ones they need, but not in exchange for food, just because that’s the right thing to do.
Also putting a Band-Aid on homelessness isn’t going to solve anything.
But increasing the minimum wage, lowering barriers to affordable housing and comprehensive changes in the way our society views and acts towards the homeless population and those who are mentally ill is a start.
I’ve got a hell of a lot more to say but I would need a book to write it in.
In fact, read “Evicted and Tell Them Who I Am.”
Finally, we should embrace those who have less than us, for the Good Book also says:
“When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:14