In many issues other then homelessness it is hard to know when facts are facts, especially when it comes to numbers. This is something that has played a prominent role in our class this semester. We discuss numbers and statistics quiet often and it truly makes me think. Think about the power behind finding out how many homeless ACTUALLY exist, or how many homeless ACTUALLY get off the streets each year, or how many homeless ACTUALLY hold down jobs and have normal lives, besides not being able to pay rent. These numbers could do so much to solidify the information we practically have.
With that being said I think that there still is power behind the numbers that exist. Looking at one website linked at the bottom the number of homeless individuals by state are in the thousands. Even though this data may vary and fluctuate or overall be a miscount the numbers are far too high to ignore the severity of the situation. I think where the numbers become problematic especially is when it boils down to cities. If a count occurs and a city only has 20 “homeless” people they have identified they may not feel very motivated to make a change. It will be interesting over the years to see what change develops in order to get more accurate readings and data on the homeless population as a whole.
From all we have seen from homelessness it is hard to say if there is a solution or not.
Watching the motel kids of orange county movie goes to show how hard hitting the issues that perpetuate homelessness are. These families are in positions where they have lost jobs or have other circumstances that hinder them from getting back on their feet. They are educated individuals, they are hard workers, but when they have an entire family to feed and bills to pay it is hard to front enough money for high rent every month. As they rent increases in the orange county area these families find themselves even further stuck in the same spot they have been in. With out some sort of financial lift these families will not be able to get an apartment to even begin with. It is difficult to see the hardship that the children go through having to live in these conditions. They wear a lot of the same clothes everyday, don’t get very healthy meals and are stuck in the same classroom as students two grades above them. For these families it seems that the only solution to the problems they face would be to have some sort of financial support every month for a bit to help get them off of their feet.
This is similar for homelessness as a whole. A lot of individuals are stuck in this cycle, barley making enough money to cover the minimum of what they need in order to be successful. It seems out of everything we have discussed the way to decrease the number of homeless is to devote money towards housing instead of wasting government funds on cops, ambulance rides, treatment, and other services that are most often consumed by the homeless population. This is easier said than done but will hopefully be something that will continue to be adopted over the years.
The idea that the homeless are the problem in our society is twisted. Our society is the problem with homelessness. We could sit around and provide top of the line shelters, take in every homeless person off the streets. Give them three meals a day, nice clothing, and some how cure every alcohol and drug related issue between them all and we would still be faced with the same problems. Our society needs to work on implementing changed with the hierarchy that exists in America. Minimum wage jobs do not support individuals, let alone those with families. The housing market continues to increase, and equality just a bunch of garbage. Minimum wage needs to not be a minimum, and if it is really understood that there needs to be a minimum it needs to become one that people are able to live off of. Rent and prices for housing needs to be capped. The rich continue to get richer and housing is a huge reason why. As for equality, although we believe our society has evolved to become more accepting we have a lot further to go. People need to look at our society and the hierarchy that exists if we want to work towards actually making a dent in the homelessness crisis that is occuring.
Over the break I sat down with my grandfather and we got into a big discussion about the classes I am enrolled in currently. This class is one that he found himself extremely interested in. As we got into a discussion about class and the topics we cover he began sharing his thoughts on the issue of homelessness with me.
We began by talking about where we purchase goods and how china used to be our main source of product production. Now that minimum wage has increased there and they have a higher population they have more of a need to be self servicing. Due to this we have found other countries where they produce goods for our country. He then began talking about our increase in technology. He stated that one day soon we would not even need to involve other countries or low class citizens in production because we will have robots that produce shoes, and clothing and other basic goods. This increase in technology will lead to a major decrease in low wage jobs as they are often simpler jobs that technology will soon take over.
This is an increase we have already seen in California, especially with the boom of the technology industry. Especially in silicon valley where I am from. We see simple jobs that used to be done by people that are now completely controlled by technology. This increase across the board is going to lead to a decrease in employment availability leading to lower employment rates and thus leading to an increase in homelessness as people do not have a source of income.
This week we had a speaker come in and discuss homelessness within the Redlands community. This speaker was Ed Torres. He is the Chair of the Board of the Center for Spiritual Living. He first got involved in this issue when the shelter in redlands closed down. Ed agreed to open the church at night to women to have somewhere to sleep.
It was very interesting hearing about this issue we have been discussing all semester from a local point of view. Our speaker was very knowledgable of the issues in our community. He talked about how a very high percentage of the homeless individuals in redlands are from redlands. He talked about how this meant these are people’s brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc.
He spoke a lot about his plan for the future of redlands. He talked about wanting to take government owned buildings that are vacant and use them as centers for the homeless. He talked about using underground parking structures at night as somewhere for homeless to sleep, or for those that sleep in their cars to have somewhere safe to sleep.
I really enjoyed his thoughts and the ways in which the community can make steps into providing resources for the disadvantaged individuals in our community.
This week was very eye opening as we got an overview of a number of different books that students read that included Grand Central, Tell Them Who I Am, Down & Out and Sidewalk which my group was assigned to. Sidewalk brought us into the lives of street vendors in New York City.
The part that was so interesting to me about everything that I read was how we treat these people as if they aren’t happy, as if we need to change their lives and as much as they may need a hand at times these people do have aspect to their lives that make them happy. The one main character Hakim talks about how he could put on a nice outfit, walk into some sort of corporate business and get a job but he chooses not to. He enjoys selling books on the street, he loves the human interactions and connections he makes. Although to some individuals this may seem like a dreadful job it is everything to this individual. The other part that the book spoke about was how some of these homeless individuals may want to sleep on the street. One man talks about how he could get a hotel room for eight dollars a night and he did while he was with his girlfriend but once she got put in jail he would sleep on the streets in the warmer months. He said with the money that he saved he was able to afford a better place to stay in the cold winter months.
I think a lot of time when we look at the homeless population we think that these individuals are not choosing to live on the streets but that is not true for all of them. I think that every individuals situation is different and that is how it should be looked at.
This week we were set to discuss the question: What is life like for the hungry, the homeless, and the near-homeless? Since the start of the course watching through videos of faces of the homeless and through the readings such as Nickel and Dimed, I feel as though so many of the stigmas I have had about homelessness have been proven wrong. I have listened to stories of people who have gone to school, have degrees, have families, have had jobs, and after a series of unfortunate events find themselves homeless. Through this I have learned homeless does not mean sleeping on the streets, or being an addict. Homelessness can be living out of your car, or even holding a job but it does not cover the never ending increased expenses life faces us with.
Nickel and Dimed showed me how near impossible it is to live on a minimum wage job. Many of the people that she worked with split apartments or rooms with two to three other people that may not even be family. They relied on these people to help them pay rent and keep a roof over their heads. Others let their coworkers shower at their apartments, or sleep on a couch if they needed to. The whole section talking about this is only referring to housing. You have to consider food, medical care and transportation. It is truly eye opening to actually look into specific cases of homelessness. I think it is something that is so widely generalized that it is difficult for people to see some of the true impacts our society has on people in the lower classes.