We all walk around the cities and towns that we live in and see homeless individuals. I always think that these people are someone’s children, someone’s siblings, maybe someone’s parents. In other words, they just didn’t turn up on a street corner as panhandlers. The root causes of homelessness are many: mental illness, addictions, and more recently just plain joblessness and hard times. Today many people who were formerly middle class have lost their jobs and their homes. Not having a permanent address makes receiving the benefits that homeless people are entitled to next to impossible to obtain. It also makes applying for a job a near impossible feat.
A substantial number of homeless people are veterans who fought for their country and returned with PTSD or physical injuries that make it difficult or impossible to hold regular employment. Applying for veteran’s disability benefits has become increasingly fraught with time-consuming red tape. In the meantime, they need adequate housing and care. What kind of a country are we when we don’t provide shelter for our wounded warriors?
Another group of homeless people are youths who have been terminated from foster care at age 18. Poorly educated and jobless, they end up on the street. Those returning from jails and prisons, having paid their debt to society, are entitled to a fresh start. They shouldn’t be sentenced to returning to jail for minor offenses incurred just to survive on the street.
The mentally ill, who were previously safely housed in institutions, make up a large portion of our homeless population. These are people who, when properly medicated, could be contributing members of society. They are the most ill-equipped and most vulnerable individuals, completely unable to survive homelessness on the streets. A perfect example is the man who was rescued in Times Square by a benevolent policeman who bought him a pair of shoes on a freezing night. Read the NY Times article here.
There are solutions to homelessness and I think that those of us who make a healthy living selling homes should also concern ourselves with this problem. For this reason, I have pledged to donate 50% of the net proceeds of my book to charities which are successfully combating this enormous societal problem.