Thursday, October 15, 2015

Solutions to Homelessness: Stop Criminalizing Survival Activity

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 criminalization of sleeping, sitting, legal activity in public spaces during appropriate times, and establishing campsites do not solve homelessness.  Rather this decreases the options of those who already have few options and increases the stress of our most chronically stressed population.   To tell people to leave a public area when they have no legal or safe place to go is simply bad public policy.  To treat a homeless person like a criminal for doing activity that the housed regularly do legally in their living rooms, is to punish them for not having four walls around them.  To criminalize normal behavior is to increase enmity between the homeless and the local government, which is the opposite of working toward a solution.

Given that part of the medical problem of homelessness is the extremely high stress levels and the PTSD of being homeless, adding more stress to the homeless does not solve the problem, but make it worse. 

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