It is incredible how many Americans are homeless, whether they are veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, people struggling to afford to feed their families, or mentally ill persons who are unable to access medication and help. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, on any given night in 2015, some 564,708 people were homeless. This incredible statistic of over five hundred thousand Americans needs to be addressed by our next president.
Living in Los Angeles, a major metropolitan city, the homeless population is large. According to the Los Angeles Times, the homeless population in Los Angeles has grown 55% since 2013 to 12,536 people. While this number does not seem significant considering that Los Angeles County encompasses some three million residents, the rapid growth of the homeless population is a concerning statistic that needs to be addressed. The homeless population is growing in all regions of the United States, not just Los Angeles, and is therefore a national issue.
Chronic homelessness is a difficult cycle to escape. Getting a job when you have no place of residence is a nearly impossible task. Creating a resume without access to a computer and the lack of a cell phone makes it difficult for homeless people to escape this endless cycle. The causes of homelessness are endless, with each person having their own personal story and circumstance on why they cannot go to a home at night. Shelters are a great, albeit temporary solution, and giving aid to shelters is invaluable to the lives of homeless men and women. Some amazing organizations help certain homeless people get back on their feet through working in their organization, such as L.A. Kitchen, a food bank in Los Angeles that both feeds and employs homeless men and women to help these people get back on their feet and a stable job.
Through the school I attend, Marlborough School, many fundraising efforts and donation events occur to help homeless people in the greater Los Angeles area throughout the year, such as donation events where girls bring in old pairs of shoes that will be donated to a LGBT homeless youth shelter that helps to shelter LGBT youth who have been kicked out by their parents on the basis their sexuality. Women coming from abusive families can find shelter in the Downtown Women's Shelter, where donating female hygiene products has positively impacted the lives of many women. Donations to organizations that help the homeless are incredibly powerful in positively shaping the lives of homeless people, though these organizations provide temporary fixes rather than permanent solutions.
It is impossible to completely eradicate the issue of homelessness, though it is possible for our government to come to the aid of homeless men, women, and children. Raising the minimum wage for struggling workers would greatly impact the lives of those who struggle to make rent, thus keeping hard-working families in their homes and off the streets. Donations to shelters do make an amazing impact on the lives of those who are currently homeless, but do not treat the causes of homelessness. By increasing the minimum wage to a living wage, families who are worried about being able to pay rent and staying in their homes will have greater funds to support themselves and stay in their residences. Additionally, laws are needed to address the many issues faced by homeless people trying to apply for jobs, such as the need for a permanent residence to be submitted on the application, which excludes homeless people from entering the work force to establish an income and the ability to afford rent and a place to live. In addition, many homeless individuals are drug addicts and with the drug laws our country has in place, it is impossible for homeless drug addicts to receive rehabilitation without a simultaneous criminal charge for the possession of illegal drugs, without which many of these people would actually die without. The decriminalization of possession of these harmful drugs would help reshape the lives of addicts who fear recovery because of the possible criminal charges.
As our next president, is it up to you to help soothe the many problems within our country right now. With our chaotic political climate, it may seem that homelessness is not the biggest issue in our country as, say, foreign policy. However, when half a million Americans are living on the streets, not knowing where their food is coming from that day and living in fear for their own safety, it is up to the government to establish a stance on this issue and help the helpless. Every life in America matters and by making a positive impact in the lives of homeless Americans, we can help stabilize the American population and then focus efforts on other policies.