If you've spent any time in our city at any point, you've noticed that we have an ever-increasing homeless population. You've watched news stories, read articles and have just listened to people vent on this growing issue.
I understand your frustration. When you are confronted with an issue it quickly devolves into a "problem". The problem becomes so big that it seems impossible to tackle. When we label it as a problem, we forget at the core there's a person there.
We need to change the way we think about homelessness.
I have worked on the front lines with the homeless for the past year and a half. There are those who want help, those who don't want help and those that want help but will refuse it. Each person I talked to has one thing in common they don't believe that they matter anymore. Every message they have gotten is saying that they are less than human. That they don't deserve the help that is being offered to them.
No one writes their 1st grade report saying that they want to be homeless when they grow up. No one studies at school and thinks they are going to use this education to sleep under a bridge. Somewhere along their life, the story was changed. They were told, in one way or the other, that whatever dream they had wasn't going to happen. That they didn't deserve anything better than their current circumstances. Thus their humanity was slowly stripped away.
We need to first establish that the homeless population of Spokane are humans worthy of decency and respect. They are citizens of this city just as much as we are. We have to change how we think of them before we can handle the situation.
Once we've re-established their humanity, we can then start to address the issues surrounding their homelessness. Some of the reasons for their present condition are mental health, addiction, lack of affordable housing or lack of job skills.
We have some incredible resources and organizations that are already working with these people. Why are we not reaching out to them and seeing how we can come alongside and assist them. Why are we not having the conversations we need to with the people who are in the trenches, tackling the circumstances surrounding this group of people?
Lets start caring about our citizens, all of our citizens, again.