Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Homelessness Is A Symptom

Homelessness, by itself, is not a social problem, but is a symptom of social problems. Trying to end homelessness by attacking only homelessness will not succeed. It would be like trying to curing someone of the flu by blowing their nose. It is only by dealing with the issues that cause homelessness, that will end, or at least reduce, homelessness.

What most often leads to this misunderstanding about homelessness, is that, institutionally, there is no separation of homeless types. Instead, all homeless people, regardless of the reason they are homeless, are lumped together, forced exist in one place, or facility. Usually, it is in a religious based, most often fundamentalist christian, facility, operated, not by well trained social workers, but by under educated religious zealots. There are some very good exceptions, though, such as run by Catholic Charities. But in most cities, Catholic Charities do not operate homeless shelters.

For the alcoholic homeless person to get off the streets, he must end the alcoholism, or at least get it under control. To get the mentally ill homeless person off the streets, he end the mental illness, or at least get it under control. And that applies to every type of issue leading to homelessness. When a woman has to flee her home with her children, because of an abusive husband/boyfriend, she must first be completely separated from the abusive relationship/s she gets into. When a person becomes homeless because of poor money management (the number one reason people become short term homeless) they must get their finances under control.

Now, at Monday's "Quality of Life in Downtown Nashville" forum, one person tried to cast dispersions on homeless people as a whole. One of the ways he tried to do that was by declaring many homeless people to be criminals. He said he had once sat on the Grand Jury, and was surprised that many people being bound over had a shelter as their home address.

First of all, poor people are least likely to obtain good legal counsel. Mostly, homeless people have to depend on public defenders, who never have enough time or resources to properly defend their clients. Additionally, you have a criminal justice system that inadvertently promotes homelessness. At least I hope it is inadvertant.

After a person has paid their debt to society, and leaves jail or prison, he/she often has no place to go. And, our society begin so bent on "independence" creates a situation were people live alone, having no family or friends intimately close enough to help out during trying times. Whatever job a person has before incarsaration is gone when they get out; so is their apartment, and all other worldly possessions. It happens, then, that these people recently released from jail or prison fall directly into homelessness. Many of these people do move on and out of homelessness, but only because they get help from agencies dedicated to their cause.

We do know that recidivism is real, and that the majority of all crimes are committed by just a few people. So, there is a very real chance that a criminal, recently released from jail or prison, and living in a shelter, will commit another crime. And, more than likely, they will do so against another homeless person.

The reason is NOT, as this person insinuated, that all homeless people are inclined to commit crimes. The reality is that there is a segment of the homeless population that is stuck in the revolving door of the criminal justice system. Again, homelessness is not of itself a social problem, but is a symptom of other problems. If problems with our criminal justice system were solved, there would be a drop in the homeless population. And in this case, if this particular problem were solved, not only would people getting out of jail or prison no longer become homeless, you would relieve the rest of the homeless population of the hard core criminals, making the quality of life better for them. And in so doing, will make it much easier for the rest of the homeless population to overcome their problems that lead to homelessness.


  1. most of this blog i would agree with. it is a symptom-not a disease or root problem. however-freewill comes into play for most people in this situation. the common criminal opted to commit crime and most are released into halfway houses and given foodstamps upon release. also there are work release programs intact for them. there are however no programs(companies) that i am aware of that go around hiring a homeless person.
    you also have to account for the people that were initially arrested for there addiction that return to it upon release. again goes back to freewill. blaming the unjust judicial system is nothing more than passing the blame of ones own faults.

  2. FreeWill is a religous, not a scientific concept. Although there is some truth to the notion of free will, an idea that was developed 2000 or so years ago, we humans have learned a lot more about the human pschy - and there are many nuances to people's decision making process than the black or white, yes or no, narrowness of thinking.

    The human mind constantly looks for and attaches itself to patterns, and can, under the right circumstances, attach itself to patterns which negate contemplation of every variable of every situation.

    Exercising FreeWill assumes that a person knows and understands every fact and consequence about every variable of every situation - and that just isn't humanly possible.

  3. okay, maybe a better term would have been common sense!! living in america maybe even the term freedom. most rational addicts know the consequences of their actions and choose to do it anyways. i am a recovering addict and always will be recovering. at no point can i go back to addiction and think it is under control. this is common sense! i am human as you stated with the same mind you spoke of and am not in jail or homeless. this is attributed to the fact that i have common sense and use it. freewill is not just religious it is the ability to choose your own actions and accept responsibility for them.

  4. But Churchlady,
    You've change the wording of your opinion, but not the cliche'd rhetoric. In your last comment you changed from a Christian, to a Nationalist, flagwaving, patriot. The fact that you cannot come up with original descriptions of your ideas but mimic worn out cliches, proves the lack of freedom within your own mind - and your lack of understanding of how the mind works - and how the mind can be and is often tricked. And the only real choice that most people make is to be in denial of the realities of the infinite foibles of the human being.

  5. Homeless Guy,

    Would you please allow the full text of your writing in the RSS Feed...I'd like to be able to read your article in my RSS feed reader.



  6. Yaziz,
    As good as done. Let me know if you any issues.

  7. the point is you are simply passing the blame on institutions and justice systems. anyone can blame someone or something for their situation as it is easier then blaming yourself for decisions you made! it is not about religion or patriotism or how the mind works. i too have been homeless during teenage years and it was choices I one else. you cannot seem to grasp the basic concept of stop blaming everyone and everything else for each persons situation. you assume by my name i am Christian, are you sure or just assuming? maybe i just like SNL. everything is not about politics and religion. it is the simple practice of knowing right from wrong and utilizing any ounce of common sense. i understand completely the hardship of reversing homeless situation once in it especially when for whatever reason you are always in a gray area!however, you cannot expect to change your situation by saying it is not possible to get out and stay out because of this or that. yes habits have to be changed as one definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. if you cannot live and learn from your mistakes you apparently either like the drama or lack basic brain function aka common sense. habitual offenders are aware of consequences but like the habit more then fear of punishment. you do not need a degree of any sort to break down simple concepts.

  8. Of course I disagree with you, you are wrong. You are attempting to "keep it simple" and and issue of "common sense" because you don't want to admit to yourself the complexity of life. You turn a blind eye to reality, and preach "all is well" while the world crumbles.

    You are just trying to make things easier on yourself. To pass the buck, and not deal with the fact that each person's actions effect other people's lives.

    I have my own experiences to draw from, and the experiences of the many many homeless people I have known for the past 25+ years. And I do know that they current thinking of mainstream society on the subject of homelessness is so inaccurate to the point of being ridiculous.

    There are studies done by scientists, you know, smart people, who have proven certain things. And they are coming up with solutions to homelessness. But our society rejects them, because these solutions cost money, and requires personal involvement in the lives of homeless people.

    Homelessness is persist as long as people like you remain rapped up in yourself.

  9. i am as far from wrapped up in myself as you can get! my family just had a homeless man from murfreesboro in our home to try to get his life back to normal and guess what- he ripped off the people he was supposed to do a job for. we also go downtown ALOT and give out clothes,food and toiletries to everyone we can find. not to the mission or any other organization- to the people on the streets!! there is nothing scientific about being homeless!! if you are so smart-why do you sleep in shelters and i sleep in the same bed every night? i in no way am passing the buck- just unlike you being realistic. i do not have a self diagnosis list of excuses for my life.

  10. As I have said before, homelessness is not an issue unto itself, but is a symptom of many different types of problems. Perhaps we are at an impass here because what caused your homelessness, was not what caused my homelessness. Not all homeless causes, or experiences, are the same. Different cures are required for the different types. I'm glad that the "bootstraps mentality" worked for you, (although I really have my doubts about that), but I have tried it, and it hasn't worked for me.

    Remember that I have successfully made it out of homelessness several different times, and yet maintaining the unhomelessness has yet proven beyond my control.

    I may soon be in a home again, in a short matter of time, as I am still pursuing a non-homeless life. We'll see how it goes. Hopefully, I get the kind of support I need to maintain it.