Homelessness and Jumbled Dreams

Homelessness and Jumbled Dreams

Homelessness and Jumbled Dreams

A man from a Boston subway station.

H.

Homelessness is one of America’s most complicated problems. Roughly over half a million people are homeless in the country, 65% of which find temporary residence in homeless shelters. The remaining 35% spend their nights on the streets, in cars, or in abandoned buildings. Most of the homeless population is concentrated within major cities along the west and northeast coasts, especially in California. In fact, 4 of the 5 cities with the highest rates of unsheltered homelessness are located in California (San Francisco, LA, Santa Rosa, and San Jose); Seattle is the fifth.

 

Ironically enough, LA and San Francisco host some of the wealthiest individuals in the nation. 

 

Government overregulation of the housing market, mismanagement of mental health institutions, and substance abuse are just a few of the most significant contributors to the problem. 

Various factors in California have contributed to this overregulation, such as activism efforts to conserve “open space” in an attempt to protect the environment. Unfortunately, the methods that were used to reduce the state’s carbon footprint have also driven housing costs up and reduced land available for development. 

Furthermore, mental institutions have a long history of being directed in well-intending but ultimately ineffective directions. Reform led to emphasis on passing “fad-like” treatments and the emptying of institutions, which only fuelled homelessness. Substance abuse has also increased in scope and contribution to homelessness. 

Homelessness itself contributes to other problems, like outbreaks of typhus due to unsanitary living conditions as well as increased violent crime. Skid Row, an area of Los Angeles with a particularly high homeless population, has been compared to hell. And the coronavirus has only worsened these problems. 

This article is an oversimplification of homelessness, its causes, and its effects, so I strongly encourage you to look into it further. The sources I used below are great starting points, but we’ll all need to understand each of these issues on a deeper level. It’s more complicated than a handful of statistics. Learn about its history, how it affects everyone (not just in California, and not just in places with homeless people), what solutions have already been tried, and existing solutions that protect the environment and the homeless. Now is the best time to learn.

We need people to step up and make a difference on all levels. Volunteer with a homeless shelter. Write articles. Lobby for reform in your local government. Urge nearby businesses to help. 

You could also have a few water bottles, toiletries, or snacks on hand to give out to homeless people you meet. Or you could support an organization that’s doing this on a larger scale, like Jumbled Dreams–a Nashville nonprofit started by a 13-year-old that donates items directly to the homeless, supports other homelessness nonprofits, and encourages community change. 

Even if you can’t do any of these things, say hello and take an interest in the lives of the homeless people near you. It’s easy to ignore them, but sometimes the best thing you can do is to talk with them, pray with them, acknowledge them. 

With the global pandemic, now is a good time to educate ourselves about this issue. But once things open back up, let’s make sure we don’t go back to the way we were before. Let’s do something for our homeless people. 

 

Check out Jumbled Dreams at JumbledDreams.org.

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During this pandemic, I’ve had a lot of extra time on my hands. My schoolwork has been cut in half and I’m confined to my house for the vast majority of the time. It’s been hard in some ways, and so much of the future is uncertain.

However, this dramatic spike in free time has given me the opportunity to reflect on one of my favorite hobbies: learning. Through platforms like Youtube and Khan Academy and the internet itself, information has never been more democratized. When combined with this extra time on my hands, I can participate more in what is truly becoming a burgeoning community of learners around the world. These are people who are truly curious about the world around them. They have a relentless desire to know why. They collaborate and debate and discuss. They know that knowledge is among the greatest riches in the world, and they are dogged in their pursuit of it. 

Learning creates this sense of accomplishment and self-improvement which I find addictively satisfying. And now is the time to do it, now is the time to explore new things, to try something you’ve never tried before.

I hope to cultivate my own community–not just an audience–of learners. I want to learn new things and share those things I learn here. I want to facilitate discussions about these topics and make this an open-source project to the greatest extent that I can. This website will serve as the launching grounds for the documentation of my journeys in learning and in doing. 

I hope you’ll join me. 

 

-Jonathan Parker Bell

May 11, 2020.

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