Counting Blessings

Taking this class has reinforced for me how lucky I have been in my life. While I have always known that I live a more privileged life than many others, I never realized quite how many things I have taken for granted. Having a place to live, food to eat, the ability to spend time on interests and hobbies rather than trying to make ends meet.  Growing up, I always assumed that I would have a job, and even after realizing that for many, an education and a resume do not guarantee a paycheck, I still know that even if I were to become unemployed I would have the resources and support to have a place to stay. Until I was forced to reflect on my position in life, I never realized that for many, such things are not a given. While I will hopefully never truly understand homelessness, as I have no desire to experience it for myself, I like to think that my experiences in this class have allowed me to reflect on my many blessings, while reminding me that there are many others who are not so privileged.

No More Tickets

There is a new federal court rule that affects all western states including California, that will have a (hopefully) positive impact on the homeless populations. The law states that cities can no longer give homeless people tickets unless the city provides enough alternative beds to house the entire population. The ACLU of Southern California agrees that its wrong to punish people for sleeping outside when there aren’t always alternative options. They believe that it is a violation of the eighth amendment, citing cruel and unusual punishment. Currently, the city of LA only has enough shelter beds to house about a third of the population, which comes out to around 31,000. Organizations such as the ACLU are hoping this law will force cities to think of more reasonable and accessible alternatives to housing.

Blog Post 4/8

The film that we had previously viewed is still sticking with me. The film was entitled, “The Motel Kids of Orange County”. This film depicted kids in various situations but in an umbrella situation of limited income and insecure housing. This film was impactful but for me, previously studying education inequality at Mt. San Antonio College, the education aspect of the film is what I cannot help but focus on. A main theme through our class is if there is a solution for homelessness and the study of things in place to attempt to help make the situation easier. As we saw, the students went to a small school which looked to be a store-front. They were forced to have multiple grades in one classroom and due to government cutbacks, they were forced to let go of a few teachers. This was upsetting in the film, but it is a very true aspect of the conventional schools we see every day.

Too often, schools are forced to make cutbacks resulting in the loss of jobs or the loss of elective classes. Conventional schools also are forced to have multiple grades in one classroom and the schools who care for a majority of low-income students are often not able to keep up with the natural deterioration of their facilities.

Though these aspects are very real, schools are also, in my opinion, creating an environment where students can escape from homelessness for a few hours. Students are offered free or reduced-price breakfast or lunch and now there are talks to begin dinners, which some schools do already. Recently in the news are the talks of offering students meals throughout the school breaks. Private companies also give out grants to teachers who propose innovate lessons or trips that the schools cannot fund.

The Way Forward

Over the time spent during this course, it has become clear to me that there is no single solution to homelessness. The fact that homelessness is in many ways a symptom of the structure of our nation means that adjustments to the economic, political, and social design of our nation if homelessness is to be reduced before it occurs, rather than simply a dressing the symptoms. Such adjustments cannot possibly come from any one particular direction, but from multiple avenues at once.

At the same time, the chances of homelessness ever disappearing are nearly nonexistent. Therefor, the efforts of various organizations to provide housing and aid are necessary. The current multiplicity of these organizations, whether governmental, private, or non-profit, is evidence of the depth of need for such aid, as well as the necessity for a large support base for such efforts. To better address the issue of homelessness, the participation of a wide variety of parties is necessary, and all of these parties’ efforts must be greatly improved.

Is there a solution?

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.

NGO’s Can’t Solve Homelessness On Their Own

Throughout this course, we have approached the issues of poverty and homelessness progressively. First, we explored the data and economic systems that produce homelessness, studied the first hand experiences, analyzed the U. S’s unproductive governmental and private approaches to it, and finally reviewed solutions. Of the effective solutions we studied, we saw few examples of them being employed domestically. Among the best was an organization on the east coast. They did not fully embrace the concepts of housing first; rather they adapted the existing progressive housing model to offer services to more people on the bottom end and offer obtainable permanent housing at the top.

While studying an organization that was employing more efficacious approaches to reducing homelessness was encouraging, their finances weren’t. Lacking any committed government support, this private NGO offered its services at a $180,000 annual deficit with no stated plan for making up the difference. Admittedly, the data available to us on these numbers was scarce, but the message was clear. If one of the most successful models of homeless aid in the U.S ran on a $180,000 deficit to serve a proportionally small amount of the population, then private solutions to homeless are likely not enough to solve this problem. While not a revolutionary conclusion, understanding that a problem of this scale can’t be solved by private organizations funded by inconsistent tax dollars and small, private donations is an important realization. This gives us another tool to argue against rhetoric that say that this is an issue for NGO’s and not for government.

Solutions to Homelessness

I really enjoyed the speaker we had on Monday because he spoke about his organization on the East Coast and how they are successfully combatting issues of homelessness. What surprised me the most was how much funding the organization receives in order to do what they do. It makes me wonder how much of homelessness could be fixed if there was more funding going towards building affordable housing and helping individuals find jobs that pay a livable wage in California. I think an important and interesting fact that the speaker mentioned was that when they build or remodel their homes, they are focused on creating the appearance of an extremely nice house (and the appearance that only one family lives inside) in order to avoid stigma from the surrounding community. This was interesting to me because I think that this is often the most difficult part of housing homeless individuals. Like we’ve talked about before, most communities have the leaf blower effect, where even if they support housing individuals, they don’t want it in their neighborhood. The unfortunate truth is that in order to have a successful housing development within a certain city, you have to play along with the city’s spoken and unspoken rules. Lastly, I thought that it was interesting that in new jersey, they have one common waitlist that all of the homeless organizations use. I think that this helps eliminate having to re-screen individuals and allows the state to connect the individual with the organization that will best fit their needs. Overall, I thought the speaker was very informative and I was very grateful we had the opportunity to meet with him.

providing Perspective 9

This week we were lucky enough to have some people off the streets, come into class and talk about the homeless situation.  They gave plenty of insight and brought light to the reality that homeless people face.  Being homeless allows them to give us an inside to the otherwise outside based dilemma that homelessness has become.  Giving their opinions on what they believe should be done to combat this issue, and what is being done.  People keep assuming things, which is why our homeless problem has gotten so out of hand.  You have to listen to the people; help where you can and adapt to what is available.  Finding or creating affordable housing is what needs to be done, according to real homeless people.  Yet we still are struggling to get approval because city’s and towns don’t want to have the homeless around.  To that I say stop being selfish and get over yourself, their are only positive effects when we help our own kind.  You’ll come to learn about yourself, and the people on the streets who might just be like you, but have been stigmatized by society and looked down upon.  We are the ones that can change this cycle and get people the help they need so we have a more efficient running society.  It’s time we start listening to the people effected by these rather crappy situations, so that we can address the problems at the root.

Detrimental Definition

This week we watched a film in the classroom entitled “The Motel Children of Orange County”. This movie followed children through their daily lives who lived either in motels or on the streets of Orange County. They attended a school that was geared to homeless children. The class expressed that they felt this school was necessary but had its faults, partly due to the fact that school had limited funding and limited resources so to cope they placed three grade levels into one classroom. This causes difficulty when teaching higher level material and overall interactions with the students. The movie was extremely impactful because it depicted the daily struggles and daily worries that these children face. One aspect of the film that was saddening was the fact that these children are constantly surrounded by violence and sadness. This surrounding them was constantly expressed within the children, for example, the children would often act out violently, speak about how they want many guns and they spoke about witnessing violent acts as casual and relaxed. Overall, this film depicted the possible consequences that homelessness has on children. In my opinion, the film also showed how specific classifications of what it means to be homeless, are missing the mark. These definitions do not include these children and families but after watching this film, it is obvious that these children are homeless.

Taking Suggestions: How to Sustainably Approach Activism

Writing this piece was especially difficult. I’m exhausted from being engaged. I’ve written essays, applied for a grant, and helped two friends navigate emotional crises today: all activities that require you to be engaged. Yet, this level of exhaustion doesn’t compare to what I expect many people feel who are deeply involved in activism.

When you dedicate your life to addressing some of our society’s biggest issues, how do you do so sustainably? How do you avoid burnout or prevent yourself from becoming detached? I would guess that the answer isn’t simple and is likely deeply personal. Searching for the answer is something I’ll likely do across my education and my life. Is there philosophy on this? Are there people who study sustainability in activism? When everything feels like a crisis, how do you survive? How can you justify even the slightest conveniences or luxuries when those resources could have fed a hungry child? I can’t say that giving up your privilege is the answer but enjoying your privilege without concern for others isn’t the answer either. The closest answer I’ve come to is Adam Smith’s Dialectical Wisdom. A concept that I am still working to understand and feel unqualified to explain.

Taking suggestions at Johnnie_Farris@redlands.edu