If there’s anything more astounding than a candidate for high office blandly declaring that “the poor will always be with us” as an excuse for government not bothering to try to reduce homelessness, it’s people trying to defend it:
But I ask this question – to what end are we building more public housing?
Close reading of the report shows that only 1 in 8 of those classified as “homeless” are sleeping rough in parks and under bridges – most are either living in hostels, or renting where they do not have security of tenure.
But is it true that some homeless people are homeless by choice? A little lazy googling shows that some may be.
Astonishingly, it’s a subject that is even discussed in homeless internet forums (astonishing, for the fact that homeless people with computers exist) – but then, here they are.
First, even if it was true that “some people” chose to be homeless, many don’t: there’s a shortage of all forms of housing – public housing waiting lists are years long, hostels don’t have enough beds, and emergency housing is stretched beyond its limit. And god help you if you’ve got particular issues – a substance abuse problem, mental health issues, a bad history with a particular facility. I know the conservative line is “well, it’s your fault you developed that substance abuse problem, so why should I care?” but the reality is that these are human beings, and by abandoning them, we are literally treating them worse than criminals. It should never be impossible to find someone shelter.
Second, how appalling is the “but some people choose it” line of argument? It’s presented as if those seeking to protect people in that class are somehow taking away their freedom to choose – when the truth is that the vast majority of those affected don’t really have a choice at all. It completely misses the point – you’ll have seen it used by anti-gay bigots who argue “hey, I know several gay people who don’t care about marriage”, as if that’s some reason to deny it to the gay people who DO. And it is dishonest, because the “some homeless people” with which these people attempt to undermine the suffering of the vast majority of homeless people are not a representative sample – it might make you feel better about ignoring the homeless person at the train station, to imagine that he’s there by “choice”, but odds are that he isn’t, and your determination to make yourself feel better at the expense of helping him, is, frankly, wrong.
We’ll see if these new public housing facilities go empty, as you’d expect if these homeless people are happy on park benches. I suspect they won’t, because they’re not.
ELSEWHERE: And as for benches deliberately designed to be uncomfortable for homeless people – well, if there is a hell, the people behind them will certainly be roasting in it.