Summers Housing/Homelessness Q3
It strikes me that there are a couple of aspects of the homelessness problem that need more attention, one demographic and one economic.
The demographics of the homeless population are complex, and people become and remain homeless for a variety of reasons, which is why there is no single “silver bullet” to solving the problem. Some see homeless people as primarily those with drug and alcohol addiction problems or mental health issues, while others see people mainly down on their luck due to financial issues, oftentimes beyond their control, who just need a temporary helping hand. There is truth to both views, and both of these issues represent significant pieces to the puzzle, but the reality is more nuanced and varied, as noted in the response to the first question above.
Many acknowledge that securing a decent job is among the best ways for one to get himself or herself out of homelessness, but not enough attention is paid to the impediments that make this so much more difficult. Occupational licensing laws, for example, serve as a barrier to work by imposing government fees and oftentimes unnecessary education and training requirements, like hair braiders forced to attend expensive cosmetology schools to learn skills they will never use. In addition, a job paying $10 an hour might allow a homeless person to live in a boarding house or stay temporarily in a flophouse until he can work his way up the economic ladder, but minimum wage laws and zoning restrictions prevent such arrangements. Even payday loans, though they may not be cheap and are often demonized, nonetheless help many get through short-term financial emergencies. These may not be ideal arrangements, but they are still much better alternatives than resorting to loan sharks or sleeping in one’s vehicle or on the street.