Sunday, October 26, 2014

Some Cities Throw the Homeless in Jail Others Are Finding Another Way

No one should be homeless in the United States of America. It’s disheartening to know that our country doesn’t have enough respect and compassion for all of its people to make sure they have adequate shelter. It’s appalling when homeless people are treated as criminals just because they have no place to live except under our bridges, in our forest, parks, streets, byways, and other public places.

Moreover, criminalizing homeless people is illogical when you consider that the judiciary process to convict and jail a homeless person costs more than simply to provide food and housing. This is especially true when vacant houses (18.5 million) outnumber homeless people (3.5 million) by five to one, according to Amnesty International USA.

But unfortunately, the almighty dollar speaks louder than our humanity, because obliging tourist and the wealthy rather than finding a way to house the homeless is more cost-effective.

On the other hand, upstate New York, and some cities such as Portland, Oregon, Austin, Texas, and Madison, Wisconsin have constructed communities of tiny houses for the homeless. It’s testimony to the fact that all it takes is a dose of compassion, some creative thinking, and a little effort to find another way rather than to throw people in jail.

For the most part, the homeless are not incorrigible drunks and drug addicts who choose to be homeless, as too many of us believe. The facts are that the primary causes of homelessness are a lack of affordable housing, mental illness, unemployment, and poverty, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors; domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness among women, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

But well before the recession of 2007, during which many Americans lost their jobs and homes, deinstitutionalization of state psychiatric hospitals was the precipitating factor that forced the mentally ill to care for themselves, which for many meant living outdoors.

The real kicker is that the U.S. agreed that there is a human right to housing, agreeing to reinforce legal protections for the homeless, create adequate, affordable housing, and address discrimination and inequalities in housing. Nevertheless, in 2010, the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to reduce homelessness found the United States failed to provide housing assistance. That’s because, just like those who run our cities and towns, our politicians in Washington feel a need to pay homage to the oligarchy than to do what’s right for those who are down and out.

Copyright © 2014 Horatio Green