Is our current homeless crisis a political problem? A spiritual issue? No, it is a humanity issue.

There are many different reasons someone becomes homeless. There is homeless and there is shelterless. Homeless may mean that someone does not live in their own abode. Instead, they rely on the kindness of family, friends or group shelters for a roof over their head. 

Those who are shelterless are the people we see camping on sidewalks, in parks or tucked in out of the way places. They carry their possessions with them as they make a bed in a tent, a box or a vehicle. Why don’t they stay in a shelter? Oftentimes the shelters are full. Many times a person who is homeless chooses not to stay in a space with rules to follow, or can’t stay with their significant others, or animals are not allowed. 

 Hopelessness can lead to drug use and addiction. When the future is gloomy and uncertain it is easy to see how some people give up any hope of living a regular existence. 

Drug use is rampant among the homeless population. Poor mental health affects others. The most dire cases need to be addressed and it must be made easier to hospitalize those who suffer from severe issues such as schizophrenia—levels that are unsafe for the sufferer and the public at large.

It is inhumane for society to stand by and let people suffering from poor mental health to languish in the streets. But law enforcement’s hands are tied. The law and the courts say you cannot arrest someone for their behavior. Maybe that needs to be adjusted, at least during this time of crisis across the country. 

Self-esteem must be maintained, especially for those who are homeless despite their best efforts to find a place to live. There should be less leeway for those who are not doing everything they can to find a home for themselves.

The billions of dollars spent across the United States on services and housing for the homeless have not moved the needle one whit on the issue. The homeless problem will continue as long as wages lag behind expenses, as long as the cost of housing continues to rise, as long as health care is out of reach for those without the benefit of employer-based health insurance. These are all causes for many who are homeless.

Local attorney and former city official Richard Walsh’s testimony before the city council this week pleaded for the city to consider purchasing and distributing Conestoga Micro-Shelters as an answer for the homeless. Priced at up to $2,500 a piece, they would allow a person to keep their belongings locked and safe. Micro-shelters are a good idea but it comes face-to-face with the reality of how to pay for them and where to place them.

Providing services and housing is important but those being helped need to take responsibility, too. The public is horrified by the trash and filth that grows around homeless camps. Any housing created to help the homeless must have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drug use, harassment and especially uncleanliness. 

Those being provided housing need to understand it is for the short-term. Tax payer supported solutions should not be looked upon as the final answer. It is a way point on the way to a more permanent home. 

It is humane to help those in our society who are suffering. This should never be one-way, however. Those being helped should be expected to take an active part in the solution.  —LAZ