Homelessness In America

August 23, 2020 |
Image taken by @kihomizuno from Top of The Rock in NYC

Over 10 years ago, my cousin left home, never to return. After she left we stayed in contact for a few years. For a stretch of time, she had a cell phone and I was able to return her calls, but they usually came from various phone numbers. When I began working in Japan, I had no way of receiving her calls and I lost contact with her. Two years after the last time I spoke with my cousin I found myself in Greenwich Village, NYC waiting to have lunch with one of my best friends at one of my favorite restaurants, Negril. While sitting in Washington Square Park and reading a book, I notice someone walking by that looks like my cousin. But it couldn’t be her, could it? Last time we spoke she was working on a farm in Oregon. But of course, it’s her—I could tell by her walk. I pack up my belongings and run after her, but she’s nowhere to be found. Homelessness has been on my mind since my cousin left home. How an eighteen-year-old, young woman travels around the U.S. and survives with little money in her pocket is beyond my comprehension. There is something poetic about people that live on the streets and are able to survive day in and day out. Living in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) for about four years was eye-opening. Being within walking distance to Skid Row, there wasn’t a 30-minute window while walking outside that I didn’t interact with the homeless. Although seeing the homeless can be sad and sometimes scary, there is more that we can do as a nation to combat it. The first step is to understand. The Department of Housing and Urban Development publishes the Point-In-Time (PIT) count that gives the amount of homeless people in our country on a single night in January. From 2007-2019, homelessness was at its peak with 646,258 people facing not having a place of their own on that January night. This calculation includes people experiencing homelessness who are in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and Safe Havens on a single night. In 2016, the PIT decreased to 549,928 and increased in 2019 (most recent year listed) to 567,715. So why should you care? Quite simply, the beehive that is the United States will cease to exist if a part of it is rotting. The rot will eventually spread if nothing is done. I’ve met and spoken with people who are desensitized by the homeless. Seeing them as the standard way of things, and best to be ignored. Perhaps it is the standard way of things at the moment, but if we ignore the underlying issues, the rot will spread. In 2007, the Point-In-Time count was at its highest. This was around the time of the financial crisis when many people lost their homes. We are currently in the midst of record unemployment and many businesses closing their doors. While you as an individual might ride through this, how many others will fall victim to this crisis and be counted as homeless? While doing research for this article, I came across a 2015 report from the National Law Center On Homelessness & Poverty that has some interesting data. The first sentence of the report states, “each year at least 2.5 to 3.5 million Americans sleep in shelters, transitional housing, and public places not meant for human habitation. At least an additional 7.4 million have lost their own homes and are doubled-up with others due to economic necessity.” That’s about 10-11 million people a year! The report will also go on to touch on the difficulty of gathering accurate numbers. This concerns me that the numbers are more undercounted than they are over. What we are facing is more than people who ran away from home or are just not willing to work. In 2013, almost 2.5 million children were homeless (NLCHP). Surely of the 2.5 million children, there will be some that go on to eventually buy their own home and make a better life for themselves, but that is a social mobility quest of epic scale. Surely we don’t want a large number of America’s future to be subject to homelessness. The women that face homelessness are likely in that position because of domestic violence. With the issues we’ve had with housing in this country, from redlining to people getting ripped off by big banks, most families choose to rent and as a result are at a greater risk of being evicted. This week I saw a video from NBCLA titled “Homeless Badly Hurting Los Angeles’ Tourism Industry, Experts Say.” The title is self-explanatory and while I was frustrated about people caring more about their trip than the issue of homelessness, I found value in watching. In it a local business owner who has been hit hard by COVID-19 as well as tourists not wanting to see homelesseness says in regards to the 2028 Olympics, “the world is going to see how we treat our own people. And if they see people living on the street. If they see people suffering on the street, what kind of message does that send the world as to what kind of people we are?” The elections are around the corner, and if you experience homelessness in your community, reach out to your local representatives. If you don’t experience homelessness close to your home, reach out to your state reps and representatives in D.C. and let them know that you care about this topic. Volunteer at homeless shelters and meet these people up close and understand their stories. PIT Count - https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/hdx/pit-hic/ National Law Center On Homelessness & Poverty - https://nlchp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Homeless_Stats_Fact_Sheet.pdf Homeless Badly Hurting Los Angeles' Tourism Industry, Experts Say | NBCLA - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlIDn-LFoXA&t=125s P.S. My cousin Kenisha aka Roxy ran away from home because of many reasons, one that she shared with me was that she didn’t feel she belonged. Seven years my younger, she was the one that got me into anime. We lived together for some time and even though she and my sister took over my room, I enjoyed spending time with her and hope to see her again soon. Thanks for reading.