They sleep quietly, waiting in plain sight to be spotted or recognized.
Humans treated inhumanely out of ignorance, discomfort, or fear.
They see everything and yet everything overlooks them; they are the homeless of America.
In an article in The Atlantic, Stephen Lurie references a recent Gallup poll stating that, “just 2 percent of respondents said that the category of “Poverty/Hunger/Homelessness” constituted “the most important problem facing this country today.”
It is easy to say that homelessness is a sad and important issue in this country, but it is another thing to actually prioritize the lives of those in need.
We as a country do not take care of homeless people.
People are not interested in statistics regarding the homeless.
isidewith.com’s homepage for the most important topics of 2016 does not even include homelessness as a prioritized topic.
So does the country just simply not care about those in need, or is there a different problem in place?
Carey Fuller of the Huffington Post put it best stating that, “homelessness isn’t an invisible problem; it’s a highly ignored and marginalized problem which ends up making the problem worse for homeless people.”
We aren’t afraid to admit that there is a significant problem of homelessness in this country, but we are terrified to feel any form of personal responsibility for a homeless person.
A capitalist society often causes a perception that those in bad situations are responsible for their misfortunes.
The whole, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” ideal is one that many Americans believe in, even if they themselves never had to do so in order to find success.
The problem isn’t always the homeless individual; the problem is a government and a society that does not see that individual as an equal American.
The problem is a system that is put in place to make rich people richer and poor people poorer.
A very famous video of a 2011 study at Harvard explained that 90 percent of Americans believe that economic wealth should be more equally distributed than they perceive it to be now.
Another part of the video plays into this idea describing the “American Dream”, and that people need motivation to work hard in order to achieve success and “keep our country moving forward”.
WATCH: Wealth Inequality In America
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So maybe that’s it? Maybe it is easy to disregard the homeless because they are not perceived as helpful members of society?
Well then let’s look at the numbers for this idea: Green Doors explained that the homeless visit emergency rooms more frequently and stay in hospitals for a longer period of time.
Here is what their study showed: “Each visit [for the homeless] costs $3,700; that’s $18,500 spent per year for the average person and $44,400 spent per year for the highest users of emergency departments.”
Moyers & Company published an article that found it costs $21,000 more to “ignore the homeless than it does to give them homes”.
These numbers come from the cost of medical attention, incarceration, shelters, etc.
So clearly this idea that leaving these people homeless is a cheaper option that actually fixing the problem is widely inaccurate.
The proven truth, is that helping the homeless find a permanent home is much more successful than ignoring them.
An NPR article declared that Utah reduced their chronic homeless population by 91 percent after instating their Housing First initiative.
The Utah solution focuses on putting people in stable housing situations first before dealing with other service needs. And people put into these homes are expected to pay monthly rent for them. But the mix of refocusing priorities and demanding accountability seems to have worked.
Granted, Utah is much smaller than states with a greater homeless population, but their work still proves that solving this problem can be done, and it can benefit everyone.
Personally dealing with the homeless on a day-to-day basis should not resemble an obstacle course of averting eye contact and speeding up ones pace when walking by someone; but it does, and it always will.
The only way to deal with the homeless and represent “American ideals” is to make poverty a prioritized topic, and create national conversation that works towards helping these individuals in a permanent and meaningful way.
If an individual can succeed of the help from family inheritance and support, homeless can and should be allowed to succeed with the help of the country’s support.
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Cover Photo Credit: Moise Nicu/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)