I recently came across an article in the Economist entitled Getting Strategic: A National Plan to End a National Disgrace. This article, like other similar articles cropping up recently, is a good example of social change media. With the down slide in the economy, many people are discovering how easy it is to become homeless and the social ill that has been simmering just below the surface of what is newsworthy is finally gaining some attention.
Homelessness has traditionally been met with a lack of interest. The prevailing attitude is that they got themselves to this point through substance abuse, gambling, or a general lack of money management. The prevailing attitude also assumes that most homeless people are mentally ill and incapable of living on their own. The prevailing attitude is that the homeless do not deserve any help. While much of the homeless population do suffer from substance abuse and mental illness, that is by no means everybody. There are a large number of people who find themselves homeless because they lost their job, became sick and couldn’t afford the treatment, couldn’t afford rising housing costs, were abused and had nowhere to turn to for help, or just ran out of luck. According to the National Coalition on Homelessness, over the past 20-25 years it has become harder and harder to find affordable rental properties. This along with a rise in poverty significantly contributes to the number of people homeless in the United States. The National Low Income Housing Coalition is reporting that the fair market rent in every state is higher than minimum wage and in 30 states more than two full-time minimum wage jobs are required to rent a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent.
The articles is well-written and includes many important facts. However, it also has a flaw. The issue that I see with the string of articles being published lately, is that they leave the reader with an overwhelming state of hopelessness or with the feeling that it is something for others to take care of. None of the articles I’ve come across talk about the little things that everyone can do to help alleviate this terrible social ill such as treating every homeless person as a human being worthy of our respect, raise awareness though our everyday conversations, and voting for programs and candidates that will help decrease poverty, promote education, and/or help create jobs.
While this article in and of itself will likely have a very small effect, it, combined with the other articles written, do have the chance to become something bigger and change the prevailing attitude towards homelessness. I have hope that articles like this will have a positive social change. I have hope that if enough people read about homelessness, and talk about what they’ve read, that soon most people will see that homelessness isn’t a disease or a mark of shame. It’s a state of being that can easily happen to anyone for a number of reasons. I have hope that the majority of the population will realize that they can never really know if their neighbor on the subway or the guy in the cubical across they way is homeless or not.