April 25, 2016
Humanists DOING GOOD
We humanists say, “We want to be good and do good.” This week we want to open the subject of The Homeless, a problem in communities across the US. Today, we’ll provide some information about the homeless. In the next issue we’ll discuss some ways that caring humanists might do good by helping the homeless in their city or town.
How big is the homeless problem?
564,708 Americans were either:
Sleeping outside or
In an emergency shelter or
In a transitional housing program
In 2014, some 7 million people in the US were doubled up with family or friends
What’s it like to be homeless?
Quotes from homeless men and women in Nashua, NH during March 2016.
“I’m alone and lonely.”
“No one cares what happens to me.”
“I worry a lot.”
“Sometimes I don’t care what happens to me.”
“I feel useless.”
“How will I survive?”
“Where will I sleep tonight?”
“Will I ever get a job again?”
“It’s terribly depressing.”
“It’s eating me from the inside-out.”
“There’s no place for me in this world.”
“I’ll never get out of this predicament.”
“I’ll never get what I need to be independent.”
“Living in the streets is very scary.”
“I’m always looking over my shoulder, afraid of being attacked.”
(A young woman)
“I’ll never be certain of anything again.”
“I feel so vulnerable.”
“I never thought this would happen to me. I’m educated, had a good job but then my job was sent overseas. First, I lost my job. Then I lost my health insurance. Then I got sick. I had big expensive medical problems. I couldn’t pay the rent and they evicted me. Now I’m on the street. I never dreamed this could happen to me.”
Why are the homeless without a place to sleep or live?
They don’t have friends or relatives who will take them in.
They have outlasted their stay with friends and relatives.
They are in the middle: not poor enough to get Medicaid. And too poor to buy food, pay medical bills and also pay the rent.
They have behavioral health disorders caused by alcohol and/or drugs.
They are a veteran who has a substantial stress problem, PTSD, adjusting to a “normal” civilian life following months of defending his or her country.
Their job did not provide health insurance. They did not have enough money to pay both the rent and a medical bill.
Why can’t the homeless get a job and keep a job?
They don’t have the suitable clothes to wear to a job interview.
Their poor teeth are a turnoff at a job interview.
They have a prison record, often for addiction related drug offenses
They don’t have a permanent address.
They have mental problems.
Automation has eliminated the job they are qualified for.
A national or area recession has severely reduced the number of available jobs.
They don’t have the necessary skills.
Their area is economically depressed
They’re too old.
Their hours on the job were reduced
They were living one paycheck away from not being able to pay the rent. A sudden problem occurred. Now they can’t pay the rent.
Facing homelessness exacerbates behavioral health disorders, substance misuse and depression.
Who are these homeless people who can’t get a job and pay the rent?
Mothers of young children.
Sufferers from alcoholism, drug addiction, depression.
Former prison inmates.
Children who have overstayed their welcome with family and friends.
No family or close friends who might offer temporary shelter.
How did the homeless get to be homeless?
They could not pay the rent.
They were evicted.
They lost their weekly income. And any savings they might have had.
They got divorced or lost their partner. The higher wage earner left, the one who paid the rent.
They lost their job.
They became injured or too ill to work.
They got fired.
They had a crushing debt that had to be paid ahead of the rent.
The landlord raised the rent to a level they were unable to pay.
They earned so little that a small bill made it impossible to pay the rent.
Rent was 70% of their income. A small unexpected bill (example: car repair) made it impossible to pay the rent.
Their job was eliminated.
They had no disability insurance
They had no family network, no place to live.
They did not have the cash to pay the three bills required by some landlords: the first month’s rent, the last month’s rent and the security deposit.
How does the homeless problem affect those of us who are NOT homeless?
The homeless problem costs US citizens, cities, and corporations millions of dollars every year.
The federal government has concluded that it is less costly to provide housing for the nation’s chronically homeless than it is to allow homeless people to continue to use expensive local services. The federal government, in most cases, will match every $1 raised locally with $3.
Some ways the homeless financially impact local communities:
Hospitals. The Homeless are often hospitalized. Much use of emergency rooms due to inadequate health care.
More important is the moral issue.
For those of us who are not homeless and who have some available time and resources, how can we help???
NEXT ISSUE: WHAT A CARING HUMANIST CAN DO FOR THE HOMELESS IN HIS/HER COMMUNITY.