Homelessness and Jumbled Dreams
A man from a Boston subway station.
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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No page numbers. No titles. No table of contents.
It’s a cultural commentary, a protest against the conventional wisdom, and a call for something more.