San Diego’s homeless are present in almost every community, yet they go virtually unnoticed. They are the living ghosts of the street, exiled to extreme poverty.
Many people turn a blind eye out of second-hand embarrassment or disgust, and choose to ignore homeless rather than lend a helping hand. Our societal lack of compassion for our fellow humans needs to change. Voices of the homeless need to be heard.
San Diego County had a reported 8,879 homeless people in 2013. Little less than half were sheltered at night or in cold weather. In January 2012 an estimated 633,782 people across America were homeless. These are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters and friends. Many homeless are mentally ill and do not know how to seek help. This is an unacceptable situation for an advanced and wealthy nation.
It is easy to assume that the whole of the homeless population is lazy and does not want to work. Assuming that all homeless are drunks, addicts, dangerous or lazy only perpetuates the stigmas. Many homeless are educated, capable people who have bad luck such as a layoff, foreclosure, divorce, hospitalization or some other economic catastrophe.
San Diego County residents need to hear the stories of homelessness. It is a complicated situation with many causes. Understanding the root of a person’s plight is a significant starting point in resolving the unsolvable.
There is no universal bandage that will cure a society of homelessness, but change is possible. Change occurs when the needs of the needy are heard and met. Elected officials must hear the issues from those who have the issues themselves. Statistics and numbers mean less than the faces behind them.
Instead of brushing the homeless aside we need to help. Ignoring them is not a long-term solution. We should examine innovative solutions from other parts of America, such as individual housing. In Wisconsin compact homes are built to house the homeless. They were built in the style of small communities and give residents their own place. These homes are cheaper than shelters and could have communal bathrooms and community centers where they could learn to socialize and get on their feet again.
Education is another cure for many homeless. Prisoners who learn to read
and write or learn a marketable skill do not return to prison. San Diego’s homeless could also benefit from counseling, medical care, expanded social services, and more news media coverage that is fair and empathetic.
Homeless people are people and worthy of respect, compassion and assistance. Southern California needs to do a better job helping its homeless. San Diego County should lead the way.