It’s easy to judge another person without having lived through their experiences. It’s easy to think that you’d have made different choices, but the truth is, we are all different, and we all react to life differently.
Every time a person shares they ended up homeless at a very young age, my heart breaks. I cannot imagine a child growing up outside on the streets. I used to work as a family case manager. I know many people like to cast blame that homelessness is a choice, but when a child feels safer outside than with their family, I do not believe they can make a choice other than to survive. Besides, if homelessness was a punishment for bad decisions, we’d all be homeless.
Robert lives in a shack made of tarps and other materials they could find. The shack provides some privacy, but it’s not much protection from the heavy that hit Los Angeles last week. When I first met Robert, he lived with his partner in a tent on a hill nearby. Caltrans came and swept the area but didn’t clean anything; they just displaced homeless people out from where they were living. It really makes no sense that Caltrans would make life harder for Robert and his partner, but that’s only the start of their problems.
Robert holds a posted sign for Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 41.18, otherwise known as a “sit and lie” law meant to criminalize homelessness. 41.18 defines that “nobody can sit, lie, or sleep on a street, sidewalk, or any other public location.” As a result, on January 10th, homelessness will be illegal in the area where Robert and hundreds of other homeless people live.
Several hundred enforcement zones around Los Angeles will soon make homelessness illegal, yet Los Angeles is not providing support for homeless people to get off the streets. Moreover, making homelessness illegal in large sections of the city reduces the places homeless people can live all at a time when homelessness is growing. This is cruel and insane, and it will make homelessness even worse!
Robert is the caregiver to his partner. She is HIV+ and suffers from mental illness. Because they are not married, service providers want to split them up. In just a few days, homelessness will be illegal where they live, and they have no place to go.
Your voice can help end homelessness. If we do not fix the affordable housing crisis, homelessness will continue to get worse. Click here to tweet, email, call, or Facebook your federal and state legislators to tell them ending homelessness and creating more affordable housing is a priority to you.