In a sense, we have all become numbed to the problem of homelessness. Most of us believe ourselves to be caring, compassionate people, but we all know the feeling we get when we have to pass a homeless person on the street. You want to pass by them as quickly as possible, as far away from them as possible, without making any eye contact. Even if they call out to you, you pretend like you can’t hear them. In other words, you try to pretend that they do not exist. Perhaps it is this indifference to the problem of homelessness that perpetuates the problem, because no matter how much we try to ignore it, it steadily gets worse.
Perhaps our indifference to this section of humanity has also trickled down to influence the attitude of the younger generation, since statistics are showing a horrible trend towards young people abusing and even murdering homeless people. Columbus is a city that can not afford to ignore the homeless problem any more. As I write this paper, there are 2,350 people in Columbus who are wondering where they will sleep tonight. Many of them are women with children, the fastest growing segment of the homeless population today (Homeless Resource Network). It is likely that the problem will continue to get worse.
Last year it was determined that 1 of every 4 people living in Ohio was unable to afford the fair-market rent of a 2-bedroom apartment. In addition, Ohio has a foreclosure rate that is 3 times the national average (Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio). With statistics like these, how many others are on the verge of becoming homeless? More importantly, what can we do about it? One of the things necessary to bring about a positive change in this issue is for us as individuals to adjust our own attitudes towards homeless people. An effort needs to be made to educate people on the facts of how homelessness occurs.
Most people feel that it is something that would never happen to them, so they simply don’t worry about it, and often look down on Page 2 someone who has become homeless. With the majority of Americans admitting that they live paycheck to paycheck, the attitude that they will never be homeless is an unrealistic one. We have to admit that it could happen to anyone given the wrong circumstances. In addition, it is imperative that we teach our children, by example, that having a home to live in is not the deciding factor as to whether or not you treat someone with respect and dignity.
Along with a change in our attitude, efforts need to focus on repairing the major problems that lead to long-term homelessness. One major problem is mental illness. I believe that there should be a system of evaluation in place to determine if a person is in need of mental help. If the person is found to be in need of that help, they should be hospitalized and treated. While it is true that many homeless people would deny treatment for mental health disorders, I believe that if the problems are very obvious, then the person should be forced into treatment.
While it may seem a harsh route to take, we have to remember that the only other option is to leave them out on the streets to do the best they can, which in itself is inhumane treatment. Another major problem is affordable housing. Children should not be homeless. Better systems need to be in place in order to prevent parents with children from becoming homeless. If a person is working a full-time job, there should be subsidies in place to help pay for housing in areas where low-cost housing is not readily available.
Homelessness is certainly not an issue with easy answers, and yes, most of the ideas I have put forth will require money to be invested. What is certain is that we must be able to look that homeless person in the eye, before we will be willing to say it is worth spending the money.
Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, homepage. (2007). Retrieved June 0, 2007. http://www. cohhio. org Homeless Resource Network, homepage. ( 2007). Retrieved June 04, 2007. http://www. homelessresourcenetwork. org