In a candlelight vigil, we named more than one hundred people who died in 2019 from the effects of homelessness. The youngest of these was only two years old. Cities across America observe the annual National Homeless Persons Memorial Day each year in December, the month with the shortest daylight hours. On the early evening of December 20, I joined others at Washington Park in Cincinnati. Led by The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, we remembered these people; people whose lives were cut short.
Here in Cincinnati, advocates are joining forces through grassroots efforts, lobbying, and educating the public, all with the ultimate goal to eradicate homelessness. Housing should be available and affordable to everyone.
Cincinnati is not alone in this activist movement. A YouTube channel, Invisible People, has an ongoing vlog which shows the personal stories of people across America; people who either go to work or who are looking for work and who do not have a place to call home. They are living out of their cars, in tents on the streets, or in shelters one night at a time when available.
People who don’t know where they’re going to spend the night struggle to receive needed services like medical treatment or counseling. And they are often forced to stay in places that are unsafe or make their illnesses worse. As a result, the life expectancy of people facing chronic homelessness is far shorter than for those who are stably housed. This tragedy emphasizes our need to make further progress to end chronic homelessness and take additional steps to protect people and families when they are homeless.
For us as a community to connect with people who are at risk for, or are experiencing homelessness, our awareness of this issue and our preventive action will help in the fight to eradicate homelessness.
Why are people and families homeless?
One strong claim is that our cities have a lack of affordable housing. In my commute home from work by bus a few days ago, I talked with a woman who has become a familiar face for me. She told me her housing takes 80% of her paycheck. She is not alone in this unfairness. Our cities need to make housing affordable for families who depend on low wages to survive. We need to prevent another death of a two-year old.
Other reasons that people experience homeless vary widely. Those of us who are securely settled in mainstream society, with a good income, home, and family or other support network have it easy. Others aren’t so fortunate. Loss of a job (many jobs are “at-will”), a landlord not renewing a lease or closing their apartment building and evicting everyone are realities which prove devastating. Natural disasters from tornadoes to floods can uproot people, leaving them homeless. These are but a few reasons; reasons which run the gamut.
One such time I was homeless occurred in late 2001. Here, below, is an excerpt from my memoir, Out of Chaos.
It’s a community thing.
Looking at reasons why homelessness happens will help in our preventive efforts. And by helping those who are experiencing homelessness, we will open doors to viable opportunities for them. This support for each other helps our community as a whole. It’s a community thing and together we can make our communities a safe and secure place to live.
A few ways we can make a difference:
Contact nonprofit organizations in the community which raise awareness of homelessness. Many have events and fundraisers.
Volunteer where you can, from soup kitchens to shelters.
Donate. Community organizations which help the homeless most often accept monetary gifts, food, clothing, and hygiene items.
When shopping, think of those who are without. When you have a coupon for “buy one-get one free,” donate that freebie. When you buy your tube of toothpaste or package of socks, grab an extra one—donate these or hand it to a homeless person. That toothpaste can help prevent tooth disease. Warm socks or gloves can make a life-or-death difference on a chilly night.
Take a friend with you and walk the streets where homeless folks are prevalent. Talk to these people—get to know them as people—and do what you can, whether it’s giving them a warm coat or clean dry socks, buying them a cup of coffee, letting them know where help is at, or offering to give them a ride to a free health clinic or a shelter. Maybe, they need a bus ticket home to family—can you help? Listen to them, as each homeless person is an individual with individual needs.
Link to Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition at https://cincihomeless.org/
117 E. 12th Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
This coalition has a wealth of information in how you can actively help the fight against homelessness as well as how to help those in immediate need.
Link to Invisible People at https://invisiblepeople.tv/
This established vlog and website shares the individual stories of persons nationwide who are experiencing homelessness, as well as the policy changes that are being sought.
Please share in the comments of how you keep active in the fight against homelessness.
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