Fixing America’s homeless problem

The problems of homelessness has persisted for quite a while and has simply been an issue for way too long. Countless measures have been taken to eradicate a problem that isn’t merely bad for the individuals who are affected by it, but also for America and their reputation in dealing with social issues. Some would argue that the stance towards reputation is the issue because America simply doesn’t care about the opinions of other nations, but maybe it should. If America paid some attention to other countries and their handling of this issue, maybe then can they accommodate the half a million plus Americans who are living without a roof over their heads.

Finland is a great role model for the American government, as they have almost completely eradicated the homeless population in their country. In Finland, the government has taken care of its issue by ending homelessness rather than just managing it. This system requires some hope and trust and many will be quick to label it as a dangerous and ineffective system, but this is simply not true and the Finnish will prove it to you. Finland’s foundation of eradicating homelessness is its housing first model, which is as simple as is it gets: If people do not have a home the Finnish government will give them one. These homes are not like the many different transitionary housing accommodations we know in America such as shelters, but an everyday home. In America, generally, the belief is that someone needs to exhibit the ability to be stable and conducive to society in order to be awarded with such aid. In Finland, regardless of everything, anyone who needs a home will be supplied one and that other issues will be taken care of in the future. skeptical? Finland is the only country in Europe whose homeless population has decreased in the last year.Screen Shot 2016-11-20 at 7.21.06 PM.png

Still skeptical? This is happening in America, right now! In case the American government can’t accept the success of a better, but other system, much like the Metric System, it just has to look at the state of Utah. In 2005, Utah’s Homeless Task Force looked at its homeless population and vowed to end chronic homelessness within the state, eleven years later they seem to be well on their way. A story aired on NPR on how Utah reduced its homeless population by 91%. The story follows Lloyd Pendelton, a man who described himself as a “conservative cowboy,” and who did not believe in “just” handing people a home to live in. Pendelton said he thought they should just get a job like everyone else and figure it out. Pendelton attended a conference in Chicago that changed his outlook on housing first programs forever. A homeless person costs the U.S. Government an annual 30-50 thousand dollars, a number which grows every year, yet housing them is less cost-effective? According to the Independent, permanent housing instead of managing the homeless saves 15,000 Euros, nearly 16,000 dollars annually. In fact, just about every study involved with housing first programs suggest that permanent housing programs are cheaper and more cost effective than temporary housing accommodations, the time and money for time in jail, and other necessary social services.

Screen Shot 2016-11-20 at 7.25.43 PM.pngThe American government does not need to hurt its ego and look to Europe for help, in fact it can pride itself as one of their states seems to have found the solution. Housing first programs require a bit of hope, but there is a lot of sense involved. Giving people a place to live, will give them a place to clean themselves, to gather their thoughts, and to feel a sense of privacy again. Giving people a house will allow them to recuperate and afford opportunities meaning they will be able to contribute to society. Some may find it a little too “Socialist” of a policy, but the state of Utah has proven that this system works, just like Finland has. Excluding the ” assumed moral duty” the government has to properly care and accommodate for its citizens, giving the homeless a permanent place to live simply makes sense. The government seemed to have finally caught on, as they planned to be starting this kind of program next year with the hopes of ending chronic homelessness by 2020. It is to hope, that the new administration does not veer off of Obama’s plans because homelessness is fixable, so America, the ball is in your court, end homelessness, end it now! Screen Shot 2016-11-20 at 7.14.58 PM.png

https://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2016/sep/14/lessons-from-finland-helping-homeless-housing-model-homes

http://www.npr.org/2015/12/10/459100751/utah-reduced-chronic-homelessness-by-91-percent-heres-how

 

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Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

In the past few decades, laws and ordinances have been enacted and enforced as “quick-fix” solutions to remove homeless people from sight, rather than addressing the underlying causes of homelessness. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty has been documented this criminalization trend in reports by since 1991.

According to an NLCHP report,  out of the 187 cities survey between 2011 and 2014, 34 percent had citywide laws criminalizing camping in public.  Another 43 percent of the cities prohibited sleeping in vehicles, and 53 percent banned sitting or lying down in certain public areas such as parks. All of these laws targeted the kind of activities — sitting, resting, sleeping — that are arguably fundamental to human existence.

Cities all over the country have increasingly moved toward enacting and enforcing laws that target and criminalize homelessness. For instance, in response to their concern about the use of public space. In response to complaints about gatherings of “vagrants” in public parks from downtown Sarasota, Florida. The city decided to remove the benches, later prohibited camping. The benches in Selby Five Points Park were removed in May 2011 to discourage the homeless from using the park.

Florida’s example along with NLCHP report show the common intent of removing homeless people from public spaces and sight. Although some city officials’ concerns about public safety are valid, the criminalization of homeless individuals is a poor public policy for several reasons.

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By adopting anti-homeless laws and policies, we are punishing homeless people for their circumstances rather than addressing causes, prevention, and solution to homelessness.

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Penalizing people for their circumstances will not help homeless people improve their situation and certainly will not keep them out of public spaces when they have no other choice. Rather, we should implement those laws and regulations to help increase resources for shelter and services that homeless people need.

Imposing laws that punish unavoidable activities is not only useless, but it is also inhumane.

Best wishes,

Auris

Bringing Beauty to Homelessness Pt. 2: Hygiene as a Right, Not a Luxury

Bringing awareness to homelessness is done in a variety of ways, and has become a global phenomenon. In keeping with my previous post about bringing beauty to homelessness, I want to focus on some trends that have been taking hold to make life more physically beautiful for homeless individuals.

A shave and a haircut can make a person feel great, but it also has the ability to change lives. From New York to Melbourne to London, to even Ogden, Utah, hairdressers have been volunteering their time to give haircuts to homeless individuals. Some go around neighborhoods, meeting individuals and documenting their changes in appearance on Instagram and other forms of social media. Others, like Mandie Barnes in Utah, open their salons and bring in other people to join the event. Barnes’ event, held in 2015, serviced over 100 people and provided them with food, clothing for the holidays, and more. Barnes and the other stylists note the added confidence and dignity the clients experience, as well as the positive impact the stylists experience in knowing they helped someone.

In addition to a haircut, others are helping homeless individuals feel better physically by providing them with places to get clean. Lava Mae, an organization started by Doniece Sandoval, repurposes old buses into mobile shower and hygiene stations for homeless individuals in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Sandoval began the project after hearing a homeless woman’s sadness about possibly never being clean again, and realizing how few public places there were for homeless people to shower. The buses dock in different spots around the cities, and provide homeless individuals with personal treatment and a place to get clean. A similar project is Dignity on Wheels, based out of Palo Alto, California, which also provides laundry services on repurposed buses. All of these innovative services make us think about how lucky we are to have access to water and a consistent place to get clean. Something as simple as a shower has the power to impact someone’s dignity and sense of self, pointing to the importance of something as simple as water and personal hygiene to our lives. Hygiene is a right, not a luxury, and it’s up to us to make a difference and make it possible for those without access to it every day.

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Bringing Beauty to Homelessness

Living on the street or in a shelter doesn’t carry a lot of glamour. An art director in Chicago, who chooses to remain anonymous, wanted to change this, and started the Urban Type Experiment. Each week, he introduced himself to a different homeless individual with a cardboard sign, and redesigned the sign using imagery and typography. He kept up with the individuals he helped and posted updates on his blog of his work and whether or not the signs had helped people raise more money or better their situation.

While the project is no longer active due to the art director moving out of Chicago, his blog and the stories on it are still available for viewing. His work was also featured in the Huffington Post and other news sites. Initiatives like the Urban Type Project are interesting ways to raise awareness, and try to make the day a little brighter for those who do not have a home. These project contribute beauty and creativity, thinking outside the box, and the standard cardboard sign.

Helping The Homeless Through The Power of Sportsmanship

Take a look at this incredible upcoming event organized by the Homeless World Cup organization. Earlier this year the same event occurred in Glascow where teams of the homeless from all around the world met to celebrate the sport they love. According to their website ” The last time a global survey was attempted – by the United Nations in 2005 – an estimated 100 million people were homeless worldwide. As many as 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing (Habitat, 2015)”. In order to combat this the organization not only raises awareness about the condition of these unfortunate people but creates an environment where they can pull themselves out of the isolation of homelessness and re-engage with society. According to their website” … 94% of players consistently say that the Homeless World Cup has had a positive impact on their lives. The feeling of belonging, challenge of working in a team, regaining a health-oriented attitude towards life, self-esteem, experience of representing their country, and last but not least the experience of fun is a powerful combination to change a person’s life.” Regardless of whether you are a sports fan or not this organization and event is something which should be well worth all of our applause.

Utilizing The Strength Of The Crowd

Technology has an amazing ability to bring people together toward causes in ways unable to imagined. Although crowdfunding has in the past been used perhaps unjustly, it can also be used toward just and worthy goals as can be demonstrated in this story. To those who want to help them reach their goal You can find a link to the crowdfunding drive here. 

Best,

Ryan