Last week I was going door to door talking with people and was saddened by how homelessness and vagrancy has impacted our neighborhoods. I was moved to talk about it on my Facebook page and people have been bringing it up in my conversations with them ever since.
It is a complex problem, but here are some of my thoughts. I hope you will share your thoughts with me as well.
Homelessness: What’s the Problem?
If the military taught me anything, it is how to find solutions to complex problems. The issue of homelessness is definitely a complex issue facing our community.
The first step in solving a problem is to define the problem. What is the true, underlying issue? Without answering this basic question, we are apt to solve the wrong problem.
That’s exactly why doctors ask so many questions before prescribing medication. Aspirin may temporarily ease the pain, but only putting the broken arm in a cast will solve the issue. The same applies to the “homeless” issue.
I’ve spoken with hundreds of local residents about this issue. Invariably, they all agree we should assist those among us who have had a change of life circumstance which is causing temporary housing difficulties. They also agree we must help those among us who are not capable of caring for themselves due to mental illness or physical limitations. As a very benevolent society, it is our duty to care for those truly in need. However flawed and in need of improvement they may be, we do have programs in place for these issues.
When we boil it down to what people are truly concerned with, however, we see that it’s not homelessness, but rather vagrancy, drug use and the crimes that typically surround those activities. Attempting to solve these crimes the same way we do homelessness is akin to prescribing aspirin for a broken bone. It makes us feel good for a short time, but the pain returns.
So, to answer my original question, the problem with homelessness is that we are trying to solve the wrong problem. It’s time for us to have the courage to specifically name the crimes at the root of the issue and treat them as such.