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Are their Compassionate Solutions to combat Homelessness?

By Reagan Williams

(Source: UnSplash, Jon Tyson)

In 2020, on a given night there were about 580,000 people experiencing homelessness in the US. This is according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development 2020 Annual Homelessness Assessment report to Congress. It’s the fourth consecutive year in a row that homelessness has increased across the country.

2020 was the first year since the data had been collected where more people experiencing homelessness were unsheltered. Unsheltered locations are considered such as the streets, abandominiums, and places that people can’t reside in. People associate homelessness with our country’s largest cities. So, is it possible for places to create compassionate solutions to help combat homelessness?

(Source: Pexels, Jon Tyson)

This past October, Miami’s city manager was advised to create an “Adopt-A-Homeless Person Assistance program. The Miami City Commission voted on a dubious ordinance to ban homeless encampments. Commissioner Joe Carollo sponsored the ordinance and at the same time proposed that the city provide a program to adopt a homeless person. The program would pay residents from the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust Fund to provide shelter to individuals experiencing homelessness. Despite Miami’s Homeless Census being at its lowest number in 25 years, the city still makes up one of the largest homeless populations in the country.

Carollo, who’s re-election was in November, garnered national attention for his “wild” suggestions about homelessness. The resolution passed and residents can offer a bed and daily essentials to a homeless person and get paid a stipend similar to the foster care system. However, how many people are willing to take a homeless person into their home? Homelessness in the United States dates back to the pre-Civil War era where people lost their homes due to wars, immigrants looking for settlements or those who were thrown out of colonial towns. In 1879, the Bowery Mission in New York was one of the first shelters established for young men who couldn’t find work after the Civil War.

There are a variety of reasons why someone might be homeless today. Systematically, homeless people experience a lack of supportive services, lack of healthcare resources, and are victims of the economy. From an individual perspective, people that are employed, unemployed, or can’t work without assistance can experience homelessness. While, some people end up being homeless after facing personal hardships, suffer from a physical ailment or mental illness.

Homelessness is a pervasive issue across the nation and mayors from large cities are planning to use COVID-19 rescue funds for these issues. Some cities including Austin, Minneapolis, Seattle and San Diego are planning to build affordable housing for low-income residents, expand rental vouchers and add large amounts of money to housing trust funds. However, housing advocates want funding that will address the continuum of the problem with execution and not just one-time spending of federal funds.

As more Americans become homeless, can viable solutions really be found for the magnitude of the problem? Cities across the country are banning tents, closing parks and arresting homeless individuals. Maybe there is no real clear “compassionate solution” for the long-standing problem of homelessness or viable solutions that tackle a person’s needs versus the current political climate.

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