I mentioned in a recent blog that a study in Denmark revealed people active on Facebook were less happy than those who weren’t. (Blog 12/7/2015) I confess some of the messages on social media leave me in despair. Mothers, fathers, children die and beloved pets, too. Divorce breaks up families, and people fall desperately ill or become homeless. Most of these sad events I can do nothing about, so writing “sorry” in the comment box leaves me feeling like a fraud.
For some time on one site, I’ve followed the life of a man without a roof over his head and who has slept in his car for three years. Sending a little aid and offering to write letters on his behalf produces little results. I watch him wringing out of his life in quiet desperation.
I know something about homelessness. As buildable land becomes scarce, former enclaves of the poor become gentrified. Rents rise and those without the means to pay sleep under bridges, in dark allies or, if they are lucky, in their cars.
Monica Potts’, “Dispossessed in the Land of Dreams,” writes about a woman who, despite a small income, lost her affordable apartment to gentrification. Now she lives on the street. Unfortunately, she lives in Silicon Valley. “A 2013 census shows Santa Clara County has more than 7,000 homeless people in its midst, the fifth-highest population per capita in the country. (New Republic, January 2016, pg. 18.)
With the poor pushed out of their homes and sleeping in the streets, the new residents have begun to complain about the vagrancy. I listened to complaints like these when I held public office. The solutions some people proposed left me breathless. One constituent insisted the government rent buses to truck the undesirables to another state.
I never solved the homeless problem. I do know living on the streets, if prolonged, can become a state of mind, robbing people of their dignity and leaving them without hope. Social agencies exist but they lack the funds to eradicate the problem. Offering a person a $300 monthly stipend where rents begin at $1000 is not only ridiculous but cruel.
Many issues divide our country but surely the plight of the homeless is a problem every citizen wishes to solve. Men, women and children deserve a clean, well-lighted place where they can rest their weary heads.