Joel John Roberts
Posts by Joel John Roberts
An empty apartment is not a home. When students go to college, their parents usually buy them bedding, cooking utensils, clothes, and food—so they can focus on their studies. When formerly homeless persons move into an apartment, just like those students starting on a new path, their home needs to be fully furnished; in turn, they can focus on looking for work and rebuilding their lives.
As for Los Angeles, our city has not lacked in creative, hard working efforts to house its homeless population. In fact, don’t let these homeless numbers fool you. We should be commended for permanently housing so many people.
Living on the streets, for years at a time, can rapidly increase one’s age—turning any young adult into someone appearing middle-aged or elderly.
Perhaps, if we give away tents to everyone on the streets, we could hide them. We would just see their shadows. It is hard to put a face on a shadow. Shadows are easier to stereotype. They are easier to forget after we drive by them. Shadows sleeping in a pup tent are easier to label as lazy, drunks, or criminals.
I think that we sometimes spend too much time and creative energy on “helping” people who are homeless, rather than simply “housing” people who are homeless. The real solution is to provide real homes for people within our homeless population.
Do we market our agencies at any cost—even if it means reinforcing inaccurate stereotypes of homelessness?
It seems to me that if average American wages are not high enough to pay for the average rent—in the long run, all of our efforts to house those who are currently homeless will not end homelessness. We will simply be treading water.
We used to think self-sufficiency was getting people a job and back on their feet. Today, self-sufficiency is connecting people to community who will continue to support them for the rest of their lives.
Today, I wonder why America—a society that is so sophisticated, wealthy, and compassionate—doesn’t pick up its lost humanity on the streets and connect them with housing and with the community of humanity.
Imagine if you were left-handed and homeless. When you tell the social worker you are a southpaw, she explains that bathrooms in the shelter are only for right-handed people. The response of these homeless shelters that bar transgender people is just as absurd as if they were banning people who were left-handed.