Image from Stencil
We've all seen them. They can be on street corners or in doorways. Sometimes they ask for money. Sometimes they just watch as we go by. Some seem unaware of what's around them. In the United States, when we are just leaving two major holidays, and in the cold season for most of the country, there have been multiple articles on our problem of growing homelessness. This is just one such article.
What do we do about this? It's not new, but it's growing more significant for multiple reasons. I've seen many articles in the last months. Most blame us as a people-- suggest it's a problem of corporate or personal greed. Is it?
Is this the fault of our culture and we are heartless?
Is it a product of many who don't fit into a modern world where jobs, even service jobs, require some strength or skills?
Have some chosen it as they don't want to follow rules?
Is it mental illness?
Is it an influx of those from other cultures where they don't know how to fit in ours-- or don't want to?
How much is PTSD from wars?
How much is PTSD from wars?
How about believing society owes everyone a living and if they don't get it, it's society's fault-- hence the fault is someone else's?
Would a reverse income tax, where money is transferred from those who work to those who do not-- would that fix it or make irresponsible living worse?
When is irresponsible living a product of an irresponsible society?
These are only a few of the questions from both sides of our partisan and cultural divide. I can come up with more possibilities but the idea of someone dying in a dumpster to get food is heartbreaking to me. If the food was left on the streets, which evidently France has been requiring, will that lead to more rats or spoiled food that sickens someone leading to lawsuits?
My concern on the homeless being allowed to live on the streets, defecate wherever they want is historical memories of cholera and other diseases that come from not having sanitary systems. When cities allow tent camps, who maintains safety and sanitation in those facilities-- or is it maintained? If food is left to rot, rats flourish leading to plague. Does anyone seriously believe people today are immune to plagues, when we return to practices that led to so many of them?
One town has threatened, with a criminal charge, a church for providing free, home-cooked meals for the homeless. The local government charges that it encourages them to be there. If not there, where?
When I am in large cities or even our local towns, I see the homeless, some on bicycles provided to help them get around. They often have packs with them-- or their bike is filled with stuff they have scavenged. Vividly, I remember some of my experiences where the people were clearly mentally ill or high on some drug. That usually is not threatening. I've had a few times where it was.
What leads someone to end up like the man in the article? What can we do about it in a country that has considerable wealth-- but with a valid question to be asked: what really helps? Currently, many of our cities have decided the answer is to allow homeless camps. Those are not new for those of you too young to remember them. I recall going to my grandmother's home in Portland and seeing the fires from the encampment down along the rails in a nearby valley. Those were the years where the men rode the rails and their encampments were not downtown. Today it's different.
Despite what some might think, this is not a partisan issue. It's a cultural one. What can be done-- dumpsters with lighter tops allowing anyone in them to get out even if sick or weakened? Tiny homes with the hope that whoever lives in them will clean up their act, with a real address, and get work? Many things have been tried-- what works? The blame game does not if it's not accompanied by some real solutions. I don't have them. Do you?