News, Policies, & Trends Opinion

Do We Really Need a Homelessness Awareness Week?

By | Nov 14, 2016

It doesn’t matter what month or week it is, there is some national awareness issue assigned to that time of the year. In February, we are reminded of National Cancer Prevention Month. In May, it is Clean Air Month, and in October don’t forget to remember Dental Hygiene Month. 

Photo by Alex O'Neal

Photo by Alex O’Neal

They are “feel good” initiatives that typically deal with a specific disease or some other global issue.

Not surprisingly, advocates struggling to make homelessness a national issue have assigned the week of November 12-20, 2016 as National Hunger & Homelessness Week. Because in November, during the Thanksgiving holiday, more people want to volunteer to serve a meal than any other time of the year.

But do we really need an awareness week to remind people that hundreds of thousands of Americans are living on our streets?

In cities where homelessness is acute, no one really needs to be reminded that homelessness is an issue. Under almost every freeway bridge are rows and rows of tents containing people with no homes. In some major cities, people are sprawled along sidewalks, bus benches, and parkways.

More and more American cities are starting to look like developing countries – rampant poverty visible everywhere.

Do we really need one week out of the year to remind us that our country still has not figured out how to house all of its people?

We have turned the cause of homelessness into some sort of a “disease” issue or “feel good” charity cause.  The cocktail charity events “for the homeless” are fun to attend, and make donors feel good at the end of the evening.

But nobody wants to hear why homelessness is an issue in the first place. Homelessness is not a disease issue where people don’t ask about the cause of the disease but instead just want to fund the solution.

Because in the world of homelessness, if we look at the root causes of homelessness the finger-pointing would be directed at all of us. We (society) have allowed our people to lose their homes and live on the streets — our foster youth, our Veterans, our low income families, our senior citizens, and our neighbors who are physically ill or disabled.

We are afraid to admit that the crisis of homelessness is our fault, even though the solution to homelessness is simple: provide housing for everyone.

Instead, we are more comfortable in making the issue of homelessness into a “feel good” cause that is highlighted one week per year, along with the other causes to end disease, polluted environment, or health prevention.

In reality, solving homelessness should be a year-round activity, and not just one week before Thanksgiving. Every day of the year, we should not only be talking about homelessness but also funding enough services and building sufficient housing to end this human crisis.