Yesterday, I briefly mentioned a project our summer camp students participated in surrounding homelessness. My topic today coincides perfectly. Years and years ago I myself experienced being without a home. I will never forget that feeling. I am not ashamed of my journey. It is what makes me who I am.
Long before that incident, I had a keen desire to learn about the homeless population. When I was in middle school, there was this place that sat right off of the Burnside Bridge(It no longer exists). I remember the owner allowed me to conduct interviews with some of the regulars there. I had my little pen and paper. I was a reporter in the making. All I can recall is the warmth and kindness they showed me. I left enlightened and sad. I didn’t understand why or how we could let people live on the streets. In college, for my senior capstone, I did another report centered on homelessness. This time I interviewed staff and volunteers at the Portland Rescue Mission, Sisters of The Road, reporters, and employees of Street Roots(homeless people who get a percentage of the papers they sell). I heard different perspectives but it was the same vicious cycle.
We see homeless people everywhere now, on sidewalks, along highways and rivers, underneath bridges, sleeping in doorways, on porches. That is not something we witnessed twenty years ago. It used to be confined to a certain area but yet here we are and it seems as though we have become immune to it like gun violence, human sex trafficking, and racism.
Today, it may seem as though this epidemic began ten to twenty years ago during the Great Recession but let’s not forget about the Great Depression, the 1960s and 1980s. Each of these moments in history reveals important information, breadcrumbs that lead those of us paying attention right to the culprit. These crumbs look like poverty, hunger, and housing or the lack of affordable housing usually caused by gentrification. Throw in social service cuts like early childhood development, health insurance, increased mental health patients, drug addiction, incarceration, more cops than counselors, unemployment and you have people who the system no longer serves. But who would want to do a thing like purge humans from existence?
Studies from Free Encyclopedia show the countries with the highest population of homelessness are in Africa(not surprising). While in the United States homelessness has decreased within the past five years, the following five cities are ranked as having the highest population of homeless people; Washington D.C, New York, Hawaii, California, and Oregon with Washington State following close behind (security.org). There is plenty of data that proves there are literally families, parents with children living on the streets and somehow we’re okay with that.
Yes, I couch surfed a day or two then stayed in a hotel for about a week while waiting to be approved to move into a house. I did not have to camp out on the streets or even a shelter and I wasn’t without a home for an extended period of time but according to the definition, I was indeed homeless. That was a long time ago but every time I see a homeless person I can’t help but think how that could’ve been me and my heart is immediately filled with gratitude for the ability to have above and beyond what I need not just for myself but my entire family. #forevergrateful