Originally published at the NAAIJ on Jan 12th, 2015.
It should be pretty easy to empathize with the homeless. But until you have actually been homeless it may not be so easy to put yourself in their shoes … assuming they have shoes. Myself, I was homeless for an extended period of time a little over a decade ago. Perhaps it’s something about sleeping on a 5 inch mat a foot away from a hundred other people in similar or worse predicaments. Keeping all your worldly possessions either on your person or in a backpack which you are using as a pillow either out of necessity or security.
Then the morning comes. You wake up, place your 5 inch mat in a stack with all the others and help setup the tables and chairs, But first you take an inventory or whatever meager possessions you may have. Mats away and tables up you then get in line for breakfast.
Next its out into the cold to panhandle during the morning rush at the transit station. Warming up every few hours in the library or the recreation center. In my case brushing up on programming skills and breaking into the computer networks around me.
It is a unique perspective to say the least, and it is this perspective that makes me quite quite enthusiastic about news out of Utah recently that was highlighted on Jon Stewart‘s ‘The Daily Show‘ on an initiative to actually house the homeless.
You can view the segment here (so long as you make Comedy Central believe you reside in the United States)
Failing that you can watch this discussion by The Young Turks on the same program.
The segment features the Director of the ‘Homeless Task Force’, Llyod Pendleton dropping some absolute gems like the programs resounding success of reducing homelessness by 72% since 2005. Nevermind the question that is on everyone’s mind ‘How much are these homeless going to cost me of my tax dollars’ — Realistically. Pennies. In fact a few less pennies than what is currently siphoned off your paycheque.
Actual figures … About $8,000 LESS than what it costs to simply do nothing and let them be incarcerated, hospitalized or institutionalized.
To quote the Director, “We gave homes .. To the homeless. Yes. It’s simple. You give them housing, And you end homelessness.”
What a sudden outbreak of common sense that was! Who would have thought you could end homelessness by giving people one of the several to 2 dozen vacant homes per homeless person in America. And save $8,000 a head while doing it!
You can read Mr. Pendleton’s testimony before the Senate Banking, Housing,and Urban Affairs Committee in 2007 here
Nigel Todman is an Independent Journalist, Technical Consultant, Social Activist, Web Developer and Computer Programmer from Ontario, Canada. Add him to Facebook and/or Follow him on Twitter E-mail: nigel [at] naaij [dot] org [PGP]