Mr. Squigglekins and I were driving to our favorite artisanal coffee shop, House Roots Coffee when we saw policemen confronting and asking homeless people to move their belongings. I felt bad because it represented an example of stigma towards homelessness and also a band aid when dealing with them. When Mr. Squigglekins and I came back from our coffee trip, we saw that they were gone.
Last year, Mr. Squigglekins and I attended a Zocolo Public Talk titled: Homelessness is Not Inevitable, which was a panel moderated by Steve Lopez, a columnist for the L.A. Times and author of the best-selling book and adapted film, The Soloist. The panel was about why despite years of discussion, people continue to live on the streets- and what can be done to change it. The experts were L.A. County Housing for Health director Marc Trotz, UCLA psychiatrist Kenneth Wells, Ocean Park Community Center executive director John Mauceri, and Christine Margiotta, a UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs alumna and vice president of community impact at United Way of Greater Los Angeles.
The experts agreed that although progress has been made to combat homelessness, there still is a long way to go. Even though Los Angeles has made a major push to increase affordable housing, the homeless population outpaces the resources provided. Obstacles include sky rocking home costs aka gentrification, insufficient state and federal funding, disorganized outreach, and the social stigma attached to homelessness.
Wells expressed the common sentiment among the panelists that in order for real change to be made, whole communities need to get involved such as “parks, barber shops, and clinics”- to address the needs of homeless people and to prevent homelessness in the first place.” “Knowing how to engage people who have special needs, depression it’s the frontline worker who knows how to take the small step before a person falls into homelessness,” he further added. Other solutions include continuing to provide more affordable housing, which Marceri conveyed should not be seen as a “reward” for good behavior, but rather something that should be used in the beginning when lifting people up from homelessness.
The basic foundation to solving homelessness is the human connection-meaning talking to people about their plight and acknowledging their existence. Many derelict and destitute people are invisible and ignored. The work helping the homeless is not straightforward, it’s non-linear and messy, but it still needs to be done.
Homelessness is a social justice passion of mine. I often post on social media about homeless problems, donate money to organizations that have holistic approaches to dealing with homelessness such as L.A. on Cloud Nine, and volunteer with the same organization when time avails me. This is a chronic problem everywhere in the United States that results from addiction, mental illness, job loss, medical costs, rising house costs, and much more. I support homelessness causes because if it weren’t for the social and financial support of my parents, I myself would be out on the street. Looking at photographers’ Instagram accounts who take pictures of the down-and-out makes me grateful to have my own basic needs met and much more. Furthermore, reading other people’s stories on homelessness reminds me that it’s a multidimensional problem that needs a variety of solutions depending on the context.
Photo By By Eric Pouhier (own work by Eric Pouhier) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons.
(Los Angeles Based)