A recent Canadian survey asked their local political candidates to share their position on housing, shelter, and homelessness. Only one-third of them responded.
Are we surprised at the lack of response?
Here in America, homelessness has exploded in the past few decades. Yes, in recent years, chronic homelessness (those people who have struggled on our streets the longest) is being reduced through an innovative approach that immediately houses homeless people.
But the sad fact in America is that on any given night nearly three-quarters of a million people are homeless. And some believe a few million people experience homelessness throughout the year.
Despite this recent downturn in the economy, America still possesses enormous riches. American private wealth, the value of the assets we hold, stands at $48.8 trillion. In simple terms, we have the capacity as a country to end homelessness.
But we don't. Why? The leaders in our country, particularly politicians, just don't have the political will to invest in ending this social enigma.
Here are my five top reasons why homelessness in America is the black sheep of politics:
Can you say "bank"? This is the rapper term for incredible amounts of money. Resolving homelessness is expensive. We all know that the main solution to homelessness is housing, an expensive solution even in this real estate downturn. We are talking billions of dollars that political leaders are not willing to spend, even when experts show it is cheaper to house a homeless person than allowing them to live on the streets using our emergency rooms, paramedics, and law enforcement.
The silent political bloc has no influence. Most homeless people do not vote. Imagine if a politician could rally a bloc of three million voters. But these voters are not empowered. We all know that political dollars go to the most influential.
I once told the mayor of a popular beach resort that if there were a fire and hundreds of homes burned down, he and his City Council would do everything, and spend anything, to house his upwardly mobile now-homeless citizens. But there is no such political will to house the hundreds of homeless people who flock to his tourist attraction. He agreed.
No instant solutions. Even if political leaders were willing to invest billions of dollars, the construction of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of housing units won't be accomplished in one or two political terms. The next generation of leaders will get the credit. Political leaders need to show solutions within their term of office.
Resolving homelessness is a bad sound bite. In this day and age of CNN, MTV, and Apple commercials, whoever can market the best 30-second sound bite attracts the most money and attention. The reasons and solutions to personal homelessness are complicated. It is like describing why your wayward son is not living in that perfect American family behind that white picketed fence home.
How do you describe and explain the solutions to domestic violence, post-traumatic stress syndrome, substance abuse, and/or mental health disease in mere seconds? It is much easier to promote an anti-drug campaign with, "Just say no." Or an educational campaign with, "No child left behind."
Finger pointing is less expensive. No one wants to take the blame for social ills. It means political death. Blaming the one who is homelessness is so much more convenient. Homeless people are lazy, crazy, and are choosing to live on the streets, they say. Who wants to invest money and political capital on them?
No wonder why we allow hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens to languish on our streets like this is some two-bit Third World nation. It is much easier to just ignore them.