Looking At The Bigger Picture

Homelessness is the responsibility of all of us. Those with mental illness, physical or mental handicaps, or simply hardships or misfortune should be supported by those around them. Harriet McDonald in Helping the Homeless Help Themselves puts forward the position that “ We need to expect more from homeless people….” She asserts the notion that “Rather than condemn the homeless to lives on the government dole, let’s demand more of them — and ourselves.” This old school mentality where the homeless simply need to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” is antiquated at best and dangerous at worst.

In the majority of the country’s major cities basic resources such as homeless shelters and soup kitchens etc. are simply not enough to meet the rising tide of desperate people. According to sfgate.com  “Homelessness in and around big U.S. cities increased 3 percent this year, even as the nation’s overall rate declined 2 percent, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development“. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness “Despite a national decrease in unsheltered homelessness, only 18 states reported decreases in the number of people living in unsheltered locations…”  this year. There is still a great way to go in getting those most in need off of the streets and putting the necessary housing measures in place.  The report reads, “Transitional housing capacity continued to decrease nationwide with 40 states and D.C. reducing capacity…..utilization of transitional housing was low, with 81.7 percent of beds filled …. the lowest utilization of transitional housing recorded since 2007.”

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We fundamentally disagree with the assertion that “… we will never be able to … add enough  government-subsidized housing units to shelter everyone forever. Nor should taxpayers be expected to pay forever for people who appear only cursorily unable to make it on their own.” The real truth of the matter is that we must take steps to first providing the basic necessities. Only then, will we as a society be able to lift those out of their misfortune and incorporate them into the larger community as a whole.         

McDonald goes at length to place her organization “The Doe Fund” on a pedestal as the ideal model for how to solve the crisis of homelessness. This organization however is not the ideal. It effectively excludes many who may be unable to work due to physical or mental illness or handicaps or even single mothers who have to look after children.  Due to the lack of basic resources available to most able-bodied homeless men and women, the odds that they would be willing to take a chance on such an organization is doubtful. Without some form of bedrock beneath them to launch from, “The Doe Fund” represents more confusion than opportunity.puffins

In short, although I can understand the notion that taxpayers shouldn’t have to bear the weight of the homeless population, I can reason that in time more expectations should be put upon the homeless to engage and contribute to society. However in order to get to that time and place the homeless must be first given some ground to stand upon so that they can gain the confidence and security to take new opportunities such as “The Doe Fund” when they arise.

Best,

Ryan

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Miracle Messages: Using the Power of Social Media to Bring Families Together

Homelessness can be associated with negative ideas, such as poverty, hard circumstances, substance addition, alcoholism, and more. Given that these have been ingrained in members of society, it comes as a surprise to some when they interact with homeless people, and find that they are “normal” and have feelings, just like any other person.

Kevin Adler, a San Francisco resident, is trying to overcome these social perceptions and the barrier between the homeless and homed populations. In 2014, Adler started Miracle Messages, a project that aims to reunite homeless individuals with their family members. He records short video clips of homeless individuals, and strategically places them on YouTube and social media sites in the hopes that the person’s family will see it. The family is invited to record a video response, and, if willing, can set up a reunion meeting. Adler has traveled to various states, and is now engaging on a cross-country campaign to reunite 100 homeless individuals with their families.

With all of the negative feelings around homelessness, it can be a breath of fresh air and a relief to see an organization actively working to help people find their families and get on their feet again. Miracle Messages was featured in the Huffington Post, as well as other magazines and news sites for their work. Check out their recent video (although it may make you cry!) to learn more about Miracle Messages’ work and see some of their reunions. Let’s hope that Miracle Messages sets a precedent, and that after years of hardship, those who have been without a home are able to come home.