Dear future president,
As president, there are tons of issues that you must deal with, far too many to count. Since one person can only do so much, I understand that you must prioritize certain issues above others. But I write you this letter with the hope that you will prioritize one issue that I find extremely important in today’s society, especially in my hometown of Los Angeles: homelessness.
Homelessness, while it has been a prevalent issue for quite some time, has now reached a point where it can be ignored no longer. According to a report from last January, 564,708 homeless individuals could be found on a given night in the United States. 15%, of this number, about 83,170 people, is made up of the “chronically homeless”, meaning those who have disabilities that have resulted in their homelessness lasting more than a year. What’s more, 25% of homeless people are struggling with a mental disorder, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disease. This is a horrifyingly large percentage of people who are unable to receive help for their illnesses.
While the statistics speak for themselves, homelessness is an issue that is personal to my life because I never go a day without seeing several homeless individuals sleeping on the streets. Since I live in Los Angeles, which has the second highest rate of homelessness in the country, I see many homeless individuals everyday. In fact, in the last year, there has been an 11% increase in the number of homeless individuals in Los Angeles. When I see someone who is homeless, I always to try to give them either food or money, but giving a $5 bill or an apple to someone can only go so far. Even though it might make the person, and myself, feel good in the moment, we need a long-term solution to get people off the streets. In addition, there is a very large stigma around homeless individuals; many people often deem them as drug addicts or criminals as justification for their being on the streets. While some homeless individuals may have struggled with substance abuse or may have been to prison, the majority have not. This stigma around homeless people has caused many people to fear them, but fearing and avoiding the homeless population is not the solution.
While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from 2009 was a step in the right direction for helping to fund housing programs, more still needs to be done to insure that these funds are used in the best way to help the greatest number of homeless people, especially those suffering from mental illnesses who may be unable to help themselves. Also, it is necessary that there is more permanent supportive housing to coincide with the growing homeless population. Once more establishments are created for those who are currently homeless, then we must focus on preventing homelessness.
Nearly every Sunday, I drive to the Starbucks near my house and do homework for several hours. The first time I went, a homeless man sitting next to me asked me what I was reading. I showed him my copy of Hamlet, and he started reciting from his favorite play by Shakespeare. He was extremely intelligent, and we ended up striking up a very nice conversation. I see him there every week, and each time he gives me new book recommendations. This relationship has made me realize how awful it is that hundreds of thousands of people like him, who each have their own unique story, now live on the streets, with very little social interaction. I hope that as president, you will focus on the extremely prevalent issue of homelessness in the United States to help people like this man get off the streets, as well as work to reduce the stigma around homeless people by reminding the rest of the country that they are people too.