Ignoring Homelessness Makes You Even More Vulnerable to It

Ignoring Homelessness

Homelessness Is Always Someone Else’s Problem Until It’s Not

It’s tempting to give in to the magical thinking that if we ignore a problem, it will disappear or somehow cease to affect us. That way, we don’t have to do anything about it. But that couldn’t be further from the truth regarding homelessness. The powers that be are banking (literally) on your impulse to ignore homelessness until it personally affects you. By then, you’ll be powerless to reshape the systems that cause it.

Moves to push homeless people out of sight and out of mind are an effort to keep people complacent with the status quo. Our willingness to ignore homeless people and homelessness contributes to its prevalence and causes problems in the here and now for everyone, both homeless and housed.

We Have a Homelessness Crisis

The problems caused for unhoused people are apparent, but the problems homelessness causes for housed people are far more insidious. I’m not talking about decreased property values here (which is a myth anyway); I’m talking about the gradual desensitization to human suffering that has some people believing that “governments should help people” is a radical statement.

It’s not normal to see homeless people and feel nothing but annoyance, anger, or revulsion. It is not normal to feel no empathy or compassion for people in crisis, instead wondering what they did to deserve it. That’s just the response that has been conditioned in us to distract from the shock that any of this is allowed to happen in a country with more than enough resources to solve homelessness. 

We’re so deep into this rabbit hole that many of us can’t imagine what it would be like to live another way.

Imagine, for a moment, the stress that would be lifted from your shoulders if you knew that you would always have housing — even if you lost your job, missed your rent, or couldn’t pay your mortgage. You would still be entitled to a safe and secure place to live. How would that change your daily life?

There is nothing you can do to deserve homelessness. Nothing. That’s what “housing is a human right” means. All people deserve safe and stable housing for no reason other than being human. There’s no income bar you need to clear or minimum code of ethics you must adhere to.

The United States and many other countries have agreed to this idea in words. Now, we need to hold to it in action.

Our Current Strategies to Fight Homelessness Aren’t Working

Facing the fact that our society allows people to suffer and die in poverty on the streets is uncomfortable. It is so uncomfortable that many people either ignore it or convince themselves that all homeless people are bad and bring their fate upon themselves.

This eases the discomfort by allowing people to believe, at least for now, that homelessness could never happen to themBut more and more people are finding out that’s not the case as they teeter on the brink of homelessness in an increasingly unaffordable housing market.

The more desperate we are to look away from homeless people and ignore the problem, the more it grows without us noticing. It should be very concerning to all of us that people who hold down one, two, or more minimum-wage jobs are priced out of housing and forced into homelessness.

Even people with so-called “good” jobs, like university professors, are increasingly unable to stretch their salaries far enough to secure stable housing. If this trend continues, only the very richest among us will be able to afford homes while the rest of us are at their mercy, paying whatever rent they choose to charge – if we can.

That may sound farfetched to you now. But who is going to stop it? The goodness of corporations’ nonexistent hearts? Or the government officials they spend good lobbying money on?

We need to demand more for ourselves to avoid this bleak future.

Stop The Game of Musical Housing

Imagine what could happen if we all viewed each case of homelessness as the tragedy it is. We would all see the thousands of ways the system is failing every day and all the areas where it can be improved. And we would act on them because lives hang in the balance.

Right now, we’re still stuck watching the game of housing musical chairs. When the first few people fail to secure their seat, it might be because of an injury or a disability. It’s easy to write that off. Of course, someone won’t perform well at musical chairs with a cast on their leg.

The next few rounds will knock out the younger kids and those too timid to play rough. We can still see the reasoning behind their elimination and devise ways to overcome them if we were playing.

But at some point, we must realize that only one chair will remain at the end of the game. The only reason we can’t all have chairs is because they’re being systematically removed from our access for the benefit of the last remaining player.

We need to collectively shift our focus away from trying in vain to be that last player and toward keeping as many chairs as possible in play. In terms of housing, this is a much more achievable goal, leading to the maximum good for our communities. While a lot of effort has gone into crafting the illusion of scarcity, we’re all just playing a game of musical chairs we could stop at any time.

Kayla Robbins

Kayla Robbins


Kayla Robbins is a freelance writer who works with big-hearted brands and businesses. When she's not working, she enjoys knitting socks, rolling d20s, and binging episodes of The Great British Bake Off.

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