What Will It Take to End Homelessness?
by Morgan W. Brown
Although the answers to the question posed might appear to be rather complicated as well as varied, depending upon who one bothers to ask and then carefully listen to, in the end, it is not necessarily merely about having enough permanent, affordable, decent and safe housing as well as deep subsidies available with which to make it possible for people who have little or no income to be able to eventually become and remain housed (though these are, of course, sorely needed).
Neither is it merely about what many assume to be some of the reasons behind why people end up living unhoused (aka homeless) in the first place.
It is always far too easy to blame those who experience living unhoused for what is assumed are the reasons behind why and how they ended up there.
Those and other widely and long held assumptions, myths and stereotypes must be consistently challenged and debunked by those who should know better.
If there is ever to be a real sense of hope to find an answer to the question of what it will take to end homelessness, one must be willing to explore more deeply (read: earnestly) as well as honestly about what is actually behind the root causes of homelessness.
Among the many root causes can be found age-old prejudice and discrimination, classism, sexism, racism, economic disparity, social inequity and injustice, enforced poverty, domestic abuse and violence, as well as deliberate indifference to all of the above and then some.
Why is it, as a society, do we essentially deny people without certain means access to adequate housing as well as other basic human needs and, on a personal basis, shun them when our paths cross or otherwise avoid contact with them altogether?
Absent providing the necessary housing, etc., in the meantime and at the very least, why do we deny people living unhoused access to public bathrooms, bathing or showering facilities, places to do laundry, secure lockers to store their possessions, reliable transportation, indoor facilities to shelter from the elements and, when they are forced to camp outdoors, making sure they are free from harassment and being made to move on and having their possessions taken, seized or discarded, including when they might be camping on public land?
In the end, it is up to all of us to help answer these and related questions by educating both ourselves and each other concerning these and related matters as well as becoming better acquainted with those living unhoused whether in general or on an individual basis if they are so inclined.
Unless and until we do these things, nothing will change and the constant misery people living unhoused face on a daily basis will go unchecked and unchanged.
If we manage to rise to the challenge, we might be better able to make a meaningful difference, not only in the lives of those who are most in need, but also within our community as a whole.
We, as a society, can and must do better in these regards.
It is up to each of us to see that it happens, particularly because elected officials as well as entrenched bureaucrats are often unwilling to do anything real and meaningful about these and other matters unless they are regularly informed (i.e., having their feet constantly kept to the fire) about how it should be an urgent priority to be addressed and that humane action is required to be seriously undertaken in order to bring about actual resolution.
Morgan W. Brown formerly lived without permanent housing for several years and currently resides permanently housed within Central Vermont. He previously served on the Montpelier Homelessness Task Force.