Throughout this course, we have sought to answer five central questions:
Question #1: What is life like for the hungry,
the homeless, and the near-homeless?
Question #2: How many homeless and near-homeless are there?
Question #3: What are the major and minor
causes of homelessness and hunger?
Question #4: What are individuals, small organizations,
and governments doing to help? What can they do to help?
Question #5: What does it take to solve this problem?
We were asked to bring the information that we had learned in this course, framed by these questions, and share it with members of our communities. Another student and I worked together to create a presentation for other students and community members that we knew. We worked to choose a topic that would be applicable to the audience and wouldn’t require any previous knowledge except casual encounters with the homeless. For this reason, we sought to explain the major and minor causes of homelessness. A topic that would likely dispel lots of preconceptions about homelessness and would give them the tools they need to address homelessness more in the future.
To address the causes, we started with a history beginning in 1950. Then we transitioned to modern-day causes. We were intentional in explaining how a series of seemingly unrelated causes formed the homeless crisis that see (or often don’t see) today. This conversation focused on the interconnected effects of income-inequality, lack of affordable housing, economic recessions, and anti-homeless legislation generate homelessness and how personal, social, and societal factors create the “tattered safety net”.
The presentation was followed by a discussion which was incredible! Audience members brought up topics ranging from basic assumptions of why we haven’t solved the crisis to cogent arguments against purely systemic approaches to the homeless crisis. I learned a lot in these discussions and my view of the role of artists in movements evolved. I was impressed at the group’s ability to respectfully disagree with other members and their ability to persuade other members.
As the discussion continued, it was clearly the most valuable part of the activity. Participants even brought up the Broken Window Theory in New York and its effects on the treatment of the homeless and impoverished communities. We only ended the discussion after I and some audience members needed to leave for meetings scheduled afterwards. I would be interested to see how this event would go if done again with a larger audience and a more refined presentation.