If you live in a city, you have probably seen the array of tents or cardboard structures that snuggle under trees, down hidden alleys, or along road sides. If you were to look inside any of the temporary shelters, you would probably find a person living there with their family or friends. Although statistics claim there is a small reduction in the homeless population in recent years, if the number of structures that have popped up in the past five years is any indication, that is far from the truth. So, the question is, how can we end homelessness in 20 years?
Preventing the Problem
There is a homeless stigma that defines millions of Americans which was created to supposedly help those individuals. The problem is that a label is still a label, and it has been shown through numerous studies that negative labels are defining, destructive, and debilitating. By limiting a person to a category, he or she begins to see themselves limited by those categorical constrictions; thus, they are unable to see themselves moving beyond the problem.
Getting people off the streets and into homes may be the first thing that comes to mind when discussing the homeless situation, but when you take a ‘street person’ off the street and put him or her into an average apartment, depression, loneliness, and suicide can result. Eyal Gutentag and his wife have a charity that strives to improve the housing problem, but it is difficult to know which direction to move when facing the homeless situation. The homeless develop family units as they move from camp to camp, and the members help to keep each other safe and fed. Housing solutions need to remember that an apartment per person doesn’t work for that mentality.
America has had homeless people for a long time, and the situation is not going to go away easily. Until there are funds to create necessary housing and society stops categorizing and labeling, you can expect to see the tents along the side of the road.