Homelessness, Whose Problem?
Homelessness is a growing problem around the world. A United Nations report suggests that 100 million people are homeless. And another 1.6 billion people lack adequate housing.
Many countries are having difficulty keeping pace with the problem, which grows regardless of the wealth of nations or the lack thereof. For instance, there are around 60,000 homeless in New York City, where some of the world’s wealthiest live.
What is even more troubling is the fact that the ever-spreading culture of hate results in homeless people being more and more treated like criminals. For instance, spikes have begun to turn up across the cities of England, in places where homeless people previously tried to sleep. Street fixtures are now designed so that no one can lie on them. Rough sleepers report being hosed with water by security guards.
Similar spikes and measures have begun to appear in other cities of the world including Paris, Montreal, New York and Tokyo. In Australia, “move on” laws permit authorities to “disperse” homeless people “where a person’s mere presence could cause anxiety to another person”. Paris police are reported to have taken the blankets of homeless people in an attempt to send them away. In other words, such hostility is increasing at an alarming rate.
For example, recently, footage surfaced showing how people laughed at a drowning refugee in Venice’s Grand Canal. He died minutes later in front of their eyes.
In August, 2015, a Greek coast guard vessel pierced a migrant boat with a lance; migrants in the water were then rescued by the Turkish coast guard.
Or remember how that infamous Hungarian camerawoman tripped a refugee man running with his child in his arms…
… or when European police tear-gassed and used batons against refugees that had children, women and elderly amongst them.
We can cite many more examples… We should remember that these people have to deal with lack of a safe shelter, food, warmth, and privacy - not to mention the constant threat of abuse, violence, exploitation and humiliation. A large number of them suffer from medical problems. Children, women and the elderly are particularly at risk, especially during the winter months.
Thankfully, there are good developments too. In a show of solidarity, many British people chose to cover the spikes with mattresses and cushions across the city. Countless homeless charities are working full-time to do everything they can to ease the pain of these people, who deserve dignity and respect just as much as anyone else.
We should remember that no one chooses to be homeless and certainly no one deserves to be treated with hostility because of it. In truth, they deserve and need even more kindness for experiencing something so difficult.
There is no doubt that many countries have made well-intentioned efforts to solve the problem, but clearly they are not enough. For this reason, it is crucial to carefully devise strategies and set the priorities right.
Some of the most urgent and immediate steps can include the following:
- The number of shelters and aid workers should be quickly increased to save as many people as possible.
- Funds should be raised through simple tax schemes that are not too burdensome on the public.
- It should be made impossible to force anyone to evacuate his home unless he has a safe and dignified place to go, which has proper privacy.
- Minimum wages must be sufficient to pay the rent and buy food.
- Healthcare costs should not strip people of their ability to pay their rents and render them homeless.
It is important for conscientious people to imagine themselves being in the shoes of these people…
No one would want to be in that position and no one would certainly want to be treated with hostility because they didn't have a home. So without further ado, let’s make up for our mistakes, and choose to be better, kinder and more compassionate.