Anjali M. California

We Can Keep Our Eyes Shut

There are 500,000 people in the U.S. who are currently homeless.

Dear Mr. President,

I have no idea what it feels like to lose everything.

There is a roof over my head and clothes on my back and food on the table. I have access to resources, information, knowledge; all around me there are endless opportunities that shape my prospects and widen my perspective. I have a family that loves me unconditionally, people that are constantly there for me. I have the right to an education and a future, the right to live my life as I wish, and the right to let my voice be heard without consequence. I am one of the lucky ones, and I never cease to be thankful that that’s true.

There are many who aren’t as fortunate. In 2015 alone, 17.7 percent of 10,000 people were homeless. That’s about 500,000 people of the 325 million people that currently live in the U.S. that have experienced some form of homelessness in the past year.

Allow me to break those numbers down for you, Mr. President.

That’s 500,000 people that struggle to find a place to stay every night. That's 500,000 people who have been left with no options, who have been failed by their own country. That’s 500,000 people that have no way out of their situation, who cannot ask for help without being alienated and ignored by a society that’s been taught to allow their shallow assumptions to cloud their own judgement.

As of now, we live in a system that makes it extremely difficult to get out of being homeless. At least 30 percent of the current homeless population is employed, but their income is, more often than not, insufficient to get them out of their situation. We choose to ignore the fact that the reasons for homelessness are often too complicated to fully encapsulate, including but in no way limited to poverty, circumstance, mental disorder, domestic violence, addiction, and the lack of support from unreliable authority.

It’s almost as if we’re afraid of taking responsibility for what’s happening. We let ourselves get away with it, justifying homelessness and poverty with our personal struggles, telling ourselves that we’ve worked to get to where we are today. We act as if these people deserve it, as if they are less than whatever we’ve become. This is our fault as much as it is theirs.

And you know what I’d like to know? What I’d like to know, Mr. President, is when we’re going to stop making excuses and start making progress, because this isn’t something that we can ignore.

This is something bigger than all of us. It’s the woman who sits outside of the grocery store, holding up a battered cardboard sign and waiting for a smile. It’s the kind old man who walks alongside the train tracks every morning, looking for a lucky break. It’s that hopeful girl with the bright eyes and a child dozing against her side, camped out next to the stop sign. It’s every single person you’ve seen out on the streets that you never gave a second thought to, whose voices you’ve long forgotten.

I know them. I’ve seen their faces. We all have.

So I guess my real question to you, Mr. President, is not just what you can do, but what we can do together. What can we do to help the underprivileged and the unseen? What resources can we provide to them to help get their feet back on the ground? How do we give those 500,000 people another chance?

We can make this about us. We can keep our eyes shut. But that’s not going to change anything. Humans are not flimsy. They can't be pushed aside for later, compartmentalized and stereotyped and labeled until they become invisible. They are still going to be there whenever we decide that they are worth our time, and it is up to us to give them the help they deserve.

It's up to you, Mr. President, to give them a voice.


Anjali M.

Santa Clara High School

Flowers English 9 Honors

Students in Flowers English 9 Honors Class

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