I know, there are more national awareness months than seems logical. January is National Oatmeal Month, April is Poetry Month, and July is Doghouse Repair Month. Sometimes I think this country has gone “OE” (over exaggeration) in naming some “cause du jour” to be highlighted in a month.
In March, Americans celebrate coffee addiction awareness month. Does that mean no visits to Starbucks that month? Talk about sacrifice.
There are, however, significant issues that this country needs to overtly highlight in order to overcome societal sins. For example, February is African American History month. For a country that has struggled with race relations, it is appropriate to ensure that the next generation of Americans doesn’t forget the sins of past generations.
Homelessness is another struggle that this country has failed to overcome. When the most prosperous nation in the world struggles to house its own citizens, I honestly see this as a societal sin. Shame on us.
Advocates who desperately campaign for the abolition of American homelessness are promoting homeless awareness weeks and months, typically in the fall. The National Coalition for the Homeless sets aside a week before Thanksgiving as the National Homeless Awareness Week. National youth coalitions set aside November as National Youth Awareness Month.
Many groups will highlight the week before Thanksgiving as Homeless Awareness Week, including Austin, Texas and Washington State University . California’s Cal Poly State San Luis Obispo highlights homelessness the last week of April.
I honestly feel that our country needs to seriously look at the fact that hundreds of thousands of our citizens are desperately struggling with life on the streets. Highlighting this plight is not simply a cause that keeps charities and student groups busy for a week or a month. When our homeless neighbors are rotting away on the streets every day, and every month of the year, we should bring together all of the homeless awareness weeks and months into ONE month of the year.
I propose October.
Why? Most Americans typically stop their chaotic lives during the end of the year holidays – Thanksgiving, Hanukah, and Christmas – to help those Americans who are less fortunate.
With the agency that I oversee, we are inundated with volunteers who want to “feed the homeless” during Thanksgiving and Christmas – November and December. But feeding a person for an evening or a month is just not enough.
If this country is serious about ending homelessness, we need to direct volunteers and our massive resources toward permanently housing homeless persons.
Let’s set aside October as that month to highlight the fact that homeless Americans need to be permanently housed. Not during November’s Thanksgiving, when we typically overstuff our bellies with turkey and mashed potatoes, and then feel guilty about those who do not have enough to eat.
The month of October is better. Because for our homeless neighbors who suffer on our streets every day, October is just as scary as it is for little children running through haunted houses on Halloween.
Photo credit: Andrew Brown