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February 13, 2011

Ending Homelessness? Possible Or Not?

Homelessness is a global problem that very few places in the world have addressed. The reasons are obvious. Homelessness is a problem that is dependent on what those that are not homeless can do. Money that can be thrown towards the situation is key to tackling the problem of homeless people. Of course, there are many other issues that are just as important that need money to fund their solutions as well.

Last night I caught a great report on the CBC about Portland, Oregon’s quest to end homelessness. I was rather impressed with what I saw and wonder why other cities have not adopted such measures.

I see homeless people all of the time around my town. They have their entire lives in single duffle bags or shopping carts they’ve taken from supermarkets. When I see the people with the signs on the side of the road I cringe. Yes there is a part of me that wonders why they are not searching for a job instead of relying on the kindness of strangers. However, the logical part of my brain tells me that there is no reason for them to look for a job. What address would they write on the employment application? What phone number would the employer call to notify them of the hiring decision? Where would they get clothes to wear to the interview? These are all very real things to take into consideration before you scream, “Get a job!” out of your car window.

So the main component of the Portland initiative to end homelessness is housing first. You do not have to enroll in a twelve step program, accept Jesus or have to have a child. All you have to be is homeless. Doesn’t matter how they got to be that way, the goal is to find the person a home. Shelter, with running water, electricity and heat can drastically change one’s outlook on life. Once the basic needs are taken care of, less concrete matters can be tended to.

I know that ending homelessness is a very lofty goal. Portland is very brave to undertake this noble endeavor but can other cities replicate their efforts? Portland houses the homeless in old buildings the city makes livable. This might be very difficult to do if the cost of living is very expensive. However, I am sure that Portland had to put some creative minds on the case to make everything workout.

The idea of ending homelessness is one that may not occur to some city government officials. There may be other items on their to-do list that rank higher. Issues like crime and poor educational systems. However, if these issues are closely examined they are connected. Having a homeless population creates opportunities for crime to occur. Hopelessness and homelessness can lead to crimes being committed by or against homeless people. Theft, murdered and drug dealing thrive in areas with a lot of homeless people. By outing forth some effort to help bring an end to homelessness can help cut down on crime.

Whether or not completely ending homelessness is realistic or not, reducing it in any manner is desirable. Some people look at the quest to solve homelessness in an all of nothing light. Sure, ending all homelessness is a long way off, but what about cutting it in half. Perfect? No but better it is a good start.

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1 Comment(s)

  1. Jerry Pomeroy | Apr 25, 2008 | Reply

    I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but a large percentage of homeless folks got that way through alcohol and/or drug abuse, and other self-destructive life patterns. I’m all for programs that force these people to work and be responsible, but just giving them stuff makes us enablers and condemns the worthy homeless to prolonged time on the street. Melanie, do us a favor and report on the progress of Portland’s program in a year or two. What percentage of those helped actually graduated to fully supporting themselves? What percentage dropped out of the program? What did it cost? As in so many cases, the ultimate solution to homelessness is personal responsibility, strong family relationships, and tough love.

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