Today, we are creating the future with everything we do. Dear Reader, I don’t expect you to solve global climate change or the problems of a consumer economy by yourself. In fact, I don’t know how to solve those problems. [I would be thrilled if you do.] But I do ask that you look at your own lifestyle. As an adult, a mature functioning being on this planet, I ask you to objectively consider how you act. And I would ask you to take responsibility for your lifestyle.
Speaking of lifestyle, what do you think when you walk by a homeless person. You know who I mean: those people who obviously live on the street or under bridges, sleeping in doorways, parks or buses. When you walk by, do you think nasty thoughts about lazy bums and crazy people? Do you make judgments and assumptions?
“Homelessness rates tripled between 1981 and 1989.”(2) Government estimates for homeless people in the US have ranged from 1.6 million people to 3.5 million people. Recent non-government estimates are much higher.
In the US, many are not who you think they are.
“Of these people, approximately 1/3 are members of households with children.” In 2007, that meant 1.35 million homeless children in the US.
For the year 2008, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics stated “39.8 million people, or 13.2 percent of the Nation’s population, lived at or below the official poverty level.”
That’s 13% of the country we like to think of as one of the richest nations on the planet.
Have you heard of the working poor? “In 2008, 4.5 million families were living below the poverty level despite having at least one member in the labor force.” (1) They also found that women with families were twice as likely as men to be working poor. Blacks and Hispanics were twice as likely to be working poor as whites.
What does this have to do with homelessness? Simply this: 20% of homeless people are employed, and they do not work seasonal jobs. Many of them work full-time. (3)
The figures about working poor and homeless people are not temporary aberrations. Since the statistics were compiled by the government, all of the working poor in the survey were legally employed. We can’t rationalize that they were illegal aliens.
None of those statistics include people without a home who are lucky enough to couch-surf with friends.
You ask me what you can do about it? I will respond by asking, “What you are willing to do?”
Vote sensibly and objectively.
Are you willing to do the research to find out what the candidates have done in the past? Will you accept the spoon-fed platitudes of those on TV who blatantly don’t care about you. Will you continue to vote based on emotional reactions to sound bites? Most of the current group of pundits have never worried about paying the heating bill and buying food when the pay check won’t cover both.
By the way, the lowest statistical year for working poor occurred in 2000, when the number dropped to around 4.75 percent of the total work force. Since the rate was 6.75% at the time of his election (the highest percent in decades), President Clinton obviously did something right during his presidency.
Check out the websites of the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the National Coalition for the Homeless. They offer many suggestions for ways to help. Some are very painless.
Both federal and state governments have cut the amounts going towards social services, feeding the poor, and sheltering the homeless. Give money to local charities. Search out and support churches that help the homeless or working poor. Many churches take food to the homeless (without expectations of church membership). Donate to national organizations (see above). Send a check to the local food bank. Donate canned food. Support or organize a local food drive.
Do you throw away clothing that you no longer wear? Or do you give it away to people who need it? Every community has a charitable thrift store or a social service agency. However, if your area truly does not have one, you could sell your unwanted clothing (through eBay) and give the money to an organization that feeds and clothes the homeless.
Ask your local politicians for area figures. Ask Your Political Representatives what they are doing about the situation. “In the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s 2008 Report, 12 of the 25 cities surveyed reported an increase in homelessness due to foreclosures;” the rest didn’t know. If your politicians don’t know, ask them why they don’t know.
I admit that this is part of a bigger, long-term, on-going rant that runs in my head. I’ve been known to lecture people at work when they needlessly and unthinkingly waste resources. Another track accompanies my comments to pagans (earth worshipers) who do not recycle and who drive vehicles that get 8 mpg. But those are different blogs. If you’ve made it this far, I thank you and ask for your comments and suggestions.
We can’t keep rationalizing to make ourselves feel better. We create the future, and we can change how that future will arrive. Let’s move in the right direction. Let’s move towards acting like people who care about the struggles of others.
National Alliance to End Homelessness online at http://www.endhomelessness.org/.
The National Coalition for the Homeless online at http://www.nationalhomeless.org/index.html.
(1) “A Profile of the Working Poor, 2008” published by US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics in March 2010.
(2) National Coalition for the Homeless online at http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/How_Many.html (accessed March 5, 2011)
(3) Means RH. A Primary Care Approach to Treating Women Without Homes. MedGenMed 3(2), 2001. Formerly published in Medscape Women’s Health eJournal 6(2), 2001. Online at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/408938 (accessed March 5, 2011).