Dear Next President,
I recently volunteered with a friend at her church to help house the homeless. During the span of week, we helped set up beds, distributed home-cooked meals, hosted bingo, assisted during their haircuts, and played with the young children. There was one little girl in particular, Jewell, who my friend and I spent much of our time with. There were numerous times where she was just a normal kid, and it didn’t cross my mind once that she was homeless - she was adorable, mischievous, and constantly brightening everyone’s day just by laughing. One day, she was sitting on my lap while we sat listening to a short sermon when she whispered something to me that broke my heart, and changed my perspective of our entire time together forever. She had quickly became infatuated with my phone and we couldn’t stop giggling as I tried to keep her quiet. She tried to play music and refused to hug me after I told her she had to wait, but quickly gave in once I gave her one. She then whispered to me and my friend that we were all sisters in an adorably certain voice at some point, too. Then, out of nowhere, she looked me very seriously in the eyes while playing with my hair and asked me, “Can I go home with you?”. Now, please imagine being in my place, future president. In that position where you realize that not only does this wonderful child have no place to call home, but she was hopefully turning to me for it and I couldn’t give her the one thing she deserved more than anything. I had to watch her face fall when I said no, because I knew I had no other alternative, that I had very little power to help her change her situation. This is why I’m grateful my friend and I were able to at least be big sisters for her during the little time we had together and hopefully impact her positively in some way. I hope you understand how deeply this has affected me personally, and that this is the unfortunate reality for thousands upon thousands of children, teens, and adults across the nation, and they need your help.
Homelessness is a prevalent issue in our society and it has become a social norm to discard as something we can’t solve. Everyday, people walk by the homeless in their city without a second thought as it’s become accepted that we can’t change it. There are also people who believe that homeless people don’t deserve help, that they caused their situation and deserve the consequences. Assuming that someone who is homeless became so by their own fault is just unwillingness to look below the surface. However, it’s been proven that funding permanent housing programs actually drastically decrease the percentage of homeless population in the cities it’s been used in, such as New York. It’s more cost-effective than spending money on shelter and other institutional care. Permanent supportive housing, federal housing assistance, and “housing first” have all been proven to work. “Research studies have found that the majority of long-term street homeless people moved into “housing first” apartments remain stably housed and experience significant improvements in their health problems” (Coalition For The Homeless). This shows that not only does it save cities money, but investing in housing for the homeless does in fact help improve their mental health and financial status, as well as giving them a safe place to call home which so many people desperately need. It even offers vital support services for people with HIV/AIDS, mental health issues, and other serious health problems, which is something that most homeless shelters do not have.
Furthermore, some people who see homeless people on the streets wonder, “Why don’t they just stay in shelters?” or “Why don’t they just get jobs?”. Unfortunately, shelters aren’t always great places to stay, and jobs aren’t always easy to find, especially if your employer finds out you’re homeless. Shelters don’t always allow pets, and to many pet owners, they’re like family to you and many homeless people would rather sleep outside than give up their loyal companion. Secondly, shelters aren’t always compatible with work hours. Despite common belief, many homeless people have jobs, they just can’t afford a house. Waiting in line for a shelter can take hours, and many have a curfew which combats with night jobs. Also, a lot of predators lurk around homeless shelters and follow them as they leave as homeless people are typically defenseless and aren’t always taken seriously when they go to the police to report assault or rape. Families are typically separated by gender, too which can be dangerous and emotionally stressful for child and parent. There’s also lack of room so not everyone who waits in line is able to get a bed for the night. As for jobs, if you don’t have the ability to look presentable for an interview due to lack of a shower, toothbrush, nice clothes, etc. it’s even less likely you’ll get a job. If you can’t afford a car, your ability to get there is limited and employers are less likely to hire you, especially if you’re homeless due to the stigma that they’re all less intelligent or drug-addicts. However, many homeless people do in fact have jobs, but minimum wage doesn’t usually allow someone to afford an apartment. In conclusion, homeless people aren’t “lazy” as it’s not easy to get a job as you’d think and affording a place to live is even harder.
The attitude toward homeless in the media and in society in general has shown that being a homeless person a negative thing, which it is, but not in the way it should be. It comes across that most homeless people are people with drug addictions, mental illness, gambling, alcoholism, etc. However, this is simply not true. According to Homelessness Facts & Statistics from Green Doors, twelve percent of homeless are veterans, thirteen percent are fleeing domestic violence, twenty-five percent suffer from mental illness, and thirty seven percent (238,110 people approximately) are in families, like Jewell and her father. So the cruel stereotype is completely wrong. So many of these people are homeless due to circumstances outside of their control. The veterans, for example, have sacrificed and served for our country, then forgotten. They all deserve the dignity of having a home and this issue is a very personal and important issue to thousands of people nationwide. So, future president, I hope that you choose to help fund permanent housing, and at least increase the quality and quantity of the homeless shelters that exist in order to significantly reduce and aid the percentage of homeless youth, veterans, and families in America today.