Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Solutions: Changing Public Perception

I am not offering a “silver bullet” toward “ending homelessness”.  I am instead making suggestions toward a long-term solution about homelessness.  Many of these directions cannot be completed in a year or two, but neither can solving homelessness. 

The big answer to solving the homeless problem is giving the homeless enough space to create their own solutions.  The homeless, for the most part, are good citizens, wanting to live in peace and harmony with their neighbors.  However, their hands are tied to determining solutions for themselves.  They are prevented by excessive chronic stress, harmful public policy that criminalizes normal behavior, and the inability for their leaders to sit at the table and offer their solutions.  The homeless can do much to improve their own situations, if they would be given the opportunity to. 

The main obstacle to a successful policy solution to homelessness is public and local government perception of the homeless and solutions to the homeless.  As long as the public is fearful of the homeless and as long as leaders continue to criminalize homelessness, then the homeless cannot find solutions for themselves.  But this will not change as long as the public do not understand the causes of or solutions to homelessness. 

I would recommend a set of classes be offered about homelessness.  There could be a class for those who make public policy, a class for police officers, a class for social workers, a class for church volunteers and a class for high schools.  Presentations can be made at neighborhood association meetings and to city councils, allowing people to ask questions about homelessness and to offer real solutions.  One or two people hired by a city or county to teach at various locations could make a difference in public perception in just two or three years.   The class could cover the life of the homeless, causes of homelessness, community perception and local neighborhood solutions.  For police and social workers, there might be a section about approaching the homeless and offering solutions that would work.  

Local television public service announcements and social media campaigns would also be effective. 

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