Thursday night we attended the .be gathering about Homelessness. A dinner of soup and subs were provided for the over 60 folks who attended the discussion at the Northside Community Church.
Julie McDermid from the La Crosse Coalition to End Homelessness introduced the program and invited another attendee to share their success story after being homeless sleeping in her car with depression and thoughts of suicide. Fortunately, she was helped by the same agency for which she now works.
Numerous statistics were shared regarding the grave problem of the growth of homelessness and the lack of affordable housing for the at- risk. Our city is building new apartment complexes to alleviate some of this need. Displaced vets have finally been housed. But many residents of our Tent City by Riverside Park found themselves uprooted and disconnected when offered housing had conditions/ difficult rules to follow.
Our table discussions began with the question “Is housing something that is earned?”
The verb ‘earned’ rubbed my group wrong for the most part. The verb EARN may be understood as a monetary/ sweat equity exchange for housing but some people have nothing/very little. In my opinion no person should ever be without shelter as it is a human right. We as one of the richest countries should do everything in our power to prevent individuals, couples/ families from being homeless. Each person deserves dignity.
Unbeknownst to us at each of our tables a homeless person was placed to share in the discussion. It gave many of us insight to realizing how close so many in our society are to being homeless and the obstacles low wage jobs cause.
It is much more economical to provide housing as needed than to deal with incurred issues by being homeless. Although a bit outdated, take a look at the chart below regarding homelessness costs incurred pre housing and post housing.
As we heard repeatedly during the evening taking care of the physical is just part of the problem as there is a mental component as well which includes shame and lack of privacy/ even isolation. So much working against a person/ family that is already down.
Salary, security, transportation, safety, respect, therapy, mental illness, all plague the homeless… Monies are needed from the federal government. Hopefully some of those taxes we just paid will be earmarked for this population. Homelessness is not going to go away but hopefully our community will volunteer to help alleviate the problem.