I am putting aside my usual flippant blog style to talk to you about a real life problem that we as a whole country need to address without the usual partisan politics and preconceived ideas. I want to talk about the homeless crisis we have in this country and share my ideas on how to help the nearly 600,000 people living without permanent homes on any given night.
HUD just concluded an in depth study of the problem and we now have some facts to work with. Here are just a few nuggets of information to share with you.
There are estimated to be 582,462 people living without a home on any given night.
60% are men/25% are families with children.
30% are chronic homeless, meaning they have been without shelter for 12 months.
60% will find shelter on a given night/40% are left to sleep on the streets.
52% are in large cities/23% are in suburban areas/18% are in rural areas/7% are urban.
Los Angeles and New York City sadly represent 20% of all the homeless, while Seattle, San Jose, and Oakland/San Francisco round out the top five cities with the biggest population of homeless. Delaware, Vermont, Louisiana, and Maine have seen their homeless populations double since 2019. The good news, if there is any, is that homelessness for veterans is down 11% in the past two years and down a whopping 50% since 2010. HUD also found that tough COVID restrictions are one of the top reasons people can't sleep indoors. If you don't have your shots you can't get in, and homeless people have getting COVID vaccines way down on their priority list of things to do.
There are an endless list of reasons why people are forced to be on the street. Unemployment, health, lost relationships, and fifty more reasons, different for each person. Hell, I'm one government shutdown away from living in a box under a bridge myself so I get it. But it shouldn't have to be this way.
This is not a political party issue, or a liberal/conservative issue, or even a race issue. This is an all of us issue and our fellow Americans deserve a better quality of life than what they are being forced to endure. Nobody wants to be homeless or sleep on the streets.
Even if people have given up on themselves it is our job as human beings to help them as best we can. I know there are tons of good minded organizations that are waging an uphill battle trying to help many of our fellow Americans, but they can't do it without help from the government. Instead of working together to find a solution that can help people get back on their feet, or at the very least, feel better about themselves, we have gridlock and political posturing. This is not just a U.S. Congress problem, it is a state and local affliction too.
So, what can we do to start to help? How about taking over the hundreds of abandoned hotels, motels, and military barracks around the country. Offer the homeless a chance to work by hiring them to fix these places up and then letting them live there. Think of it a bringing back the WPA projects during the depression that gave not only jobs, but hope to people while restoring their honor and self esteem.
These eyesores are just going to eventually rot away if we don't save them. They are breeding grounds for drug deals, and other nefarious activities that would be pushed aside when they are being renewed. Imagine how someone would feel to not only have a job, but access to housing that they built.
Earning money would give them a way to eat regular meals again but it also would be a way to help them buy drugs and alcohol which for many is how they got into this situation to begin with. So, along with this project we would need to offer access to medical help and mental health counseling. The program would need to subsidize local clinics, mental health professionals, medical schools, and any other organization that would like to help.
Creating a consumer friendly list of names and places would give them free advertising of their services and possibly help them attract paying clients. I know firsthand that the major retailers and manufacturers have tons of excess clothing that either is given away or sold to closeout operations at super discounted prices for disposal. Why not donate this stuff to an organization set-up to help the homeless get new clothes?
On site feeding areas, medical help, daycare, veterinary services, and job training would round out the help for not only getting a place to live but back on their feet and into the workplace, if they choose to go in that direction. The stores, population, and politicians that complain about homeless encampments outside their business and homes would gladly give financial help to clean up their streets.
This is going to take a national approach, national oversight, and national leadership to make sure everything is going according to plan. The President should create a new cabinet position as Secretary of Reintegration to oversee this project and it should be a yearly budget item for Congress to approve and oversee to make sure it is doing what it is supposed to be doing.
This is just one guys idea of how to help and I know each of you has different ideas yourself that can help us finally get a handle on this issue. It is long past the time to do something. This is about human kindness, dignity, and support. Not doing anything is not an option.