Does feeding homeless people solve the problem of homelessness ?
Recently I have moved to Vancouver, and if in Toronto, where I have previously lived, you don’t see homelessness as an issue, in Vancouver – it is a real deal….
Maybe it is just me, but I feel that something is not right. How is that possible that people donate a lot to fight homelessness, but at the same time, amount of homeless people increases rapidly ?
I am not an expert on the issue. My knowledge is limited to what I have seen myself on the streets, to the 2 documentaries about homelessness, that I have watched, and to the couple dozen of articles on homelessness and fundraising campaigns, that I have followed. So everything ,that is written here, is my personal point of view, based on the sources stated above.
Google “fight homelessness” and you will find tons of fundraising campaigns. Many of whom are focusing on providing shelter and providing food for homeless people. The question I have is – How does feeding homeless people or providing temporary shelter fights homelessness ? Why few of those fundraising campaigns focus on the actual reason WHY people ending up on the streets ? Why few of the charities are focusing on HOW TO PREVENT the issue of people becoming homeless ?
I think there is a big difference between solving the problem and acting on the consequences of the problem. Don’t get me wrong – I believe that people on the streets should be fed and have shelter, but I also think we (taxpayers) are already doing this because based on the data – Government of Canada spent $7 billion in 2013 on the issue of homelessness. Meaning every tax payer have contributed to make sure that homelessness people are taking care of, but this is not what this post is about.
Most of the fundraisers, that I see these days, take a stand that people are in a bad situation and we should make sure that they feel good while being in this bad situation, instead of searching for ways to get them out of their bad situation and making sure that the next person does not get into this bad situation in the first place.
As with many other things it easier to focus on HOW, and not to focus on WHY.
The closest I found to answering the question WHY a lot of people in Canada are homeless is by watching the movie Streets of Plenty (you can watch it below), where reporter goes homeless for a month. As part of his investigation he finds out that what keeps people in the streets is drug addiction. Many people who are on drugs don’t really care where they live or where they sleep, they just want to keep using drugs and being in the none judging environment. In Vancouver we even have a ‘non-judging street corner of East Hastings and Main’. This maybe does not sound strange to you, but it certainly does to me. I think that by providing a non-judging environment we are just saying: “Being homeless drug addict is ok.”
In this case I am wondering: Are we providing a non-judging environment, or are we too afraid/busy/selfish to actually deal with the real issue ? Is it easier for us to say that we are fighting the problem by providing shelters and food, and forget about drug addiction ? Why we are not fundraising for taking care of the drug problem ? Why drugs are easily accessible ? Do we teach our children what happens with them if they start using drugs ?
Also big amount of homeless people are mentally ill – Why we are not providing treatment to mentally ill people ? Why are we ignoring the issue that people need help, as if being ill is ok ?
So many questions… And no answers…
By ignoring the issue that mentally ill people are homeless we say: “Being mentally ill and becoming homeless because of that is ok…” Does this sound right to you ?
How is this possible that we are spending all this time and money on feeding people, and almost none of the time on researching why these people are in the situation that they need to be fed?
One of the popular non-official answers on why we don’t treat mentally ill, or not treat drug addiction – it is expensive! At this point this get ridiculous. Before we found out that fighting homeless is the cause that people donate a lot, and now we say it is expensive ?
I don’t donate to charities that deal with food banks and fighting homelessness. I know that my taxes go to feeding these people and providing shelter and I support it. I also know that many organizations doing great job providing additional meals and shelter. However, I would not put my time or additional money to support consequences of the problem. I would rather find charity/volunteering opportunity that will focus on solving WHY not HOW. Instead of seeing fed homeless people, I want to see the same people having a better life, not living on the streets and being healthy.
Sorry for a long post…
Documentary that shows the scope of Homelessness in Vancouver: