Overcoming the Tragedy of Homelessness

As a nation, as a state, as a city, let’s resolve to be our brother’s keeper.

January 15, 2018
| by
Dr. James Veltmeyer

Homelessness seems to be one of those perennially intractable problems facing many communities in America today, especially our larger cities with generous taxpayer-funded social safety nets. In fact, homelessness seems to flourish the most where the services provided are the most generous. This is not surprising. Welfare and other social services are often “magnets” that draw more people to wherever the most benefits are offered.

Unlike many politicians who pontificate on the subject, I actually experienced homelessness as a young boy living in the streets of South America. I was lucky. I was able to come to the United States and start a new life. I was fortunate my mother had a sister living in El Cajon who agreed to take me in.

Unlike many politicians who pontificate on the subject, I actually experienced homelessness as a young boy living in the streets of South America.

When we examine the homeless crisis today, my experience can be instructive. I had a relative who enabled me to overcome my homeless state, go to school, work, and become successful. And, this was in another country.

To what extent are our self-appointed homeless experts today ( who seem to be experts in wasting taxpayer money on “solutions” that don’t work ) actually talking to the people living in the streets, trying to determine what landed them there and why. Everyone is different and every homeless person certainly has a different story to tell.

For example, how much effort is made to connect the homeless with family members and relatives, some of whom might be unaware of their situation and willing to help. The same could be said of previous employers, teachers, pastors, or even physicians. How much time is spent actually learning the background of these unfortunates as any good social worker would do?

How about our churches, the historic houses of Christian charity which were the main sources of assistance to those down on their luck until Big Government shoved them aside and decided to replace God with the Department of Health and Human Services?

Is simply building more housing the answer? Probably not. While the lack of affordable housing may be a factor, it isn’t the main cause of homelessness. If it were, major cities in the Midwest and Rust Belt where housing is dirt-cheap would have no homeless problems at all. That’s certainly not the case.

Of course, California’s housing costs are astronomical. However, will replacing a $1 million home with an “affordable” home of half that amount really help the homeless eating out of garbage cans and sleeping on park benches? Of course not. Before one homeless person can even think about an “affordable” or “low income” house or apartment, he or she needs a job, needs to receive the proper medical or mental health care, drug rehabilitation, and needs the  education and training required to offer an employer the skills the job requires.

Homeless eating at a soup kitchn
Many of our homeless are actually veterans, the finest our nation has to offer.

Medical care. Mental health care. Drug rehab. Education and jobs. Those are the keys to overcoming homelessness. Sadly, it is true that most of the people living on our nation’s streets suffer from mental illness or a drug problem. Changes in the way we have treated these conditions over the decades has resulted in releasing individuals into the general community rather than caring for them in group homes and other facilities where they can get “cleaned up” and ready for the real world again. Sending a drug addict out into the streets after a month or two of rehab may only result in the cycle starting all over again.

Many of our homeless are actually veterans, the finest our nation has to offer. It is a disgrace to see them living this way. Instead of spending billions on showering benefits on those who broke into our country illegally, let’s redirect those funds to our homeless veterans, to help them find schooling and jobs or overcome any addictions they have fallen victim to. The same general principle applies to all of America’s homeless. As a legal immigrant myself, I can safely express my politically-incorrect outrage that illegal immigrants are treated better than our fellow citizens who have lost jobs to cheap labor or bad trade agreements or been priced out of a decent education or become hooked on licit or illicit drugs, perhaps only out of the deep depression they suffer for what has happened to them.

As a nation, as a state, as a city, let’s resolve to be our brother’s keeper. Let’s start implementing policies that actually get the homeless off the streets and back to their families or churches or into classrooms and jobs, instead of dead-end handouts or “pie-in-the-sky” political promises that prevent them from  helping themselves achieve a better life like I did.