Out of sight

May 2, 2024

Homelessness is a national emergency. In January 2022, it was estimated there were 582,462 homeless people. That number has certainly increased. That’s 18 out of every ten-thousand people. 28 percent of the homeless population are families. 30 percent live in California.
Homelessness has been on the rise since 2017. 22% are chronically homeless. Mental illness, disabilities, addictions are some of the problems for this group. 6% of homeless people are veterans. PTSD and other trauma accompanied by physical and mental pain permeate this group. 5% of homeless people are children. Teens run away from abusive homes, untenable situations. 
In 2022, white people were the largest racial group among the homeless. The New York Times did an article interviewing homeless people in which they offered some of the reasons and reactions to their being homeless. There are homeless people who work, but wages are so low they cannot break the cycle. Day care is an issue for people who want to work and have children to care for. People live paycheck to paycheck. Unexpected expenditures like eyeglasses or ordinary expenses like gasoline can send a family to the street. 
People want the dignity of a job that pays them enough to live. For any government help, there are too many obstacles and too sluggish a response. Filing paperwork that will be addressed in thirty days is too slow a response.
We see homeless people on almost every streetcorner in Raleigh. There are not enough shelter beds, which even though people are sheltered temporarily, do not housing make. We pass by, maybe offering a few dollars and a bottle of water. Kind, but not solving the problem. 
There are some who pass by and call these folks lazy or strung out on drugs. Giving them money will only provide good money to buy more meth or coke, they say. We miss the complexity of the homelessness problem, painting the homeless as something less than human. Shame on us. 
Where is the safety net for these people? Is this a problem so big nobody has a good solution for helping people get out of the cycle of homelessness? Across the country, even in Raleigh, homeless encampments are being evicted and torn down.
There is a case now being argued before the Supreme Court that could possibly rewrite rules about homeless people camping and sleeping on public property. There appears to be an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. One defendant said, “this seems to be a ban on the status of being homeless.” 
Destroying encampments does not make the problem go away. Homeless people do not simply evaporate. Cutting the legs out from people who have already had legs cut in one way or another seems heartless. We are complicating the problem because we have no real solutions. 
We are witnessing a failure of government at the local, state and national level. Churches, the Salvation Army, Rescue Missions and all the other social service agencies in the country are not enough to address this issue. Resources for mental health would be a good start. Hospital Emergency Departments are not enough to attend every need. The magnitude of the problem grows exponentially every year.
Here's the deal… a couch in a friend’s apartment is not a home. Crashing in someone’s apartment is not a home. A car is not a home. These are not lasting solutions. They stress families and friendships, further complicating the issue. 
There is a movie, just released about a creative way to raise the issue of homelessness in the world. The movie, A Beautiful Game, tells the true story of the Homeless World Cup. The teams are from countries all over the world, made up of athletes, soccer players, who are down on their luck and find redemption in the purpose of playing the beautiful game. Redemption is what any of us seek. 
With all that is going on in the world, to wholesale dismiss the needs of the homeless is harsh. It’s kicking somebody when they are down. Nobody deserves that. 
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite www.avirtualchurch.com. She can be contacted at libcam05@gmail.com  

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