How to fix the Systematic Desensitization of a SubpopulationImagine being at your most vulnerable, being helpless, lost, acknowledging that there’s no way you can get through a situation on your own, now imagine putting away your pride, putting away your ego and building up the courage to ask a complete stranger for help, only for them to tell you to “get lost”. Would this hurt you? Would it discourage you? It might give you a sense of anguish, a feeling that your situation is a lost cause, and that your life is nothing more than a failed try at the American Dream and an added statistic for a growing group of society. Unfortunately this is the reality many of the homeless population go through every day. But why is it that when it comes to the homeless much of our empathy is put away? This can be traced back to the perception of the homeless we as a society have developed within our heads, an underlooked stereotype that has crippled a whole group of individuals within society.
Think back to when you saw your first homeless person, and asked your parents why they were asking for money, or why they were sleeping on the street, did they respond sympathetic or were they pointing fingers at their “laziness” or “drugs”? Now think to whenever you see a homeless man or woman on the media, especially in older shows and movies, are they portrayed as nice people, or are they drug addicts and or suffering from mental illness? Overtime constant exposure of these ideals have given Americans an unrealistic perception of what being homeless is actually like, and has given people and many politicians a negative attitude whenever the government attempts to get involved in the assisting of the homeless. Las Vegas ranks in the top 10 when it comes to the homeless, while the population had stopped from growing significantly since 2012 we have been seeing a steady increase in the past 4 years (Davidson Scott 2017), the Nevada and City legislative solution to address the homeless issue, until recently has been ractive, investing the majority of the budget for homelessness on offering a place to stay and a hot meal, while this is important, studies have shown that proactive solutions instead, such as conventional and professional training, have been more effective in making sure the homeless are able to find a home and stay off the streets (Nelson, Sarah E 711-722) and if we wish to drastically reduce the homeless population, we must be able to tackle this two headed beast of social reform and policy reform.Homelessness has been a systematically underrated issue with a negative stigma which has casually made us as a society brush of the homeless and their issues, so much so that we have laws in place that, in hindsight, are kind of violations of your natural rights. Criminalization laws can take many forms.
Most commonly, they outlaw sitting, sleeping in vehicles or outdoors, lying down,” sharing food, and camping. Curfews on public parks are often put in place to ensure that homeless people don’t use park benches as beds. Cities are forcing their homeless people to live on the streets with virtually no other options, and then arresting them for doing so. (Rosenberger Robert, 2015). In March 2014, these criminalization laws even led to a man’s death. 56-year-old veteran Jerome Murdough was without shelter in New York City on a cold night. Searching for a safe place to sleep, he took refuge in an enclosed stairwell in a Harlem public housing building.
He was found and arrested for trespassing by officers. Since he didn’t have $2,500 to post bail, he was sent to Riker’s Island Prison, where he was placed in a hot cell and ignored for hours by prison staff, where he ultimately died from overheating. According to a city official, Mr. Murdough “basically baked to death” in the cell, and was found dead on the floor. His inexcusable death highlights the dangers of criminalization laws; instead of receiving needed assistance, Murdough was treated like a criminal, and ultimately lost his life for trying to find a safe place to sleep.
(Reuven Blau, Larry Mcshane 2014).But why has our culture become so desensitized to homelessness as a whole? Well to answer that we can look at the culprit for making our society more and more desensitized to nudity, or inappropriate language, and that is the media. The issue of homelessness is almost always inaccurately depicted throughout all media platforms. Stereotypes of homelessness are perpetuated in the media more than anything.
News outlets, for one, too often take the humanity out of the information they provide.Many people don’t think twice when they hear about the thousands of individuals without homes across the country. Why? Because these individuals are no longer portrayed as people with feelings and ideas, instead, they are numbers. Although these numbers might be informative when describing the severity of homelessness, listeners and readers often feel far removed from issues such as the extent of homelessness, poverty and the affordable housing shortage.
Numbers are not as impactful because there is no human aspect tied to them to make them relatable. However when the media does cover a story on the homeless we see either a success story of an individual who rose out of homelessness, or a story of a homeless individual who was on drugs or alcohol and got in trouble with the law the entertainment media has also given us unrealistic ideas of what to expect from individuals struggling with homelessness. If we don’t see a success story like Will Smith in the movie, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” then often we see a person who follows the stereotype: of a crazy man on drugs, that has raggedy clothes, and smells bad. Although recently social media has also risen as a major influencer of our culture and may even be the most damaging to the homeless in the modern era. Homelessness within social media can often be seen as comical, where “selfies with homeless people” become trends on social media sites.
Humans are treated as backdrops instead of individuals and actual human beings, or used as a tool to increase one’s reputation with by recording your “good deeds. The media is in a large part where from we get our information. We learn and absorb from it without even realizing it.
Media has become especially pervasive in our generation, and this increase in media consumption has come to shape our social interactions, especially our interactions with homeless populations in our cities. These perceptions have distanced us and our legislatures from the actual issues, and leaving a whole subsection of the population victims of cultural bias.The las vegas city council however has taken its first big step to addressing the issue of homelessness in the valley correctly by recently approving a $15 million plan to transform properties within the Corridor of Hope (Main St- E. Washington Area) into a courtyard and transitional campus for the homeless. The campus would ideally provide the homeless with an immediate and approachable setting where they could legally sleep and get basic amenities like a shower and toilet. The campus would help connect them to the services and programs they need to address their circumstances and get back on their feet, however these resources have not been specified, and would be limited to basic information.This is a huge step for las vegas however it is not enough to simply have a section of the street designated to the homeless while offering services we must be willing to take drastic action to reduce this issue Step 1 to tackle this beast might be the hardest, and that is, changing the perspective of the people, because unless the people approve these ideas the government can do little to help we must push for awareness the leading causes for homelessness and show the numbers that many have no idea exist such as the main cause of homelessness being poverty, while alcohol and drugs, which most people believe is the number one reason, rank anywhere from 3-5, We need to push local and state government to reform many government programs for the homeless, one such idea of reform is adopting the French’s newly passed legislation on food waste, which requires supermarkets to donate unsold food instead of throwing them away and in return receiving a reimbursement of 5% of the product, and or a tax deduction as a charitable donation. We then should focus on removing and or excepting the homeless from laws that would basically violate their natural rights to do this we would need to pass a federal homeless bill of rights.
12 states and Puerto Rico currently have some form of this bill, however federal legislation would include: Protection against segregation, laws targeting homeless people for their lack of housing, granted privacy and property protections, opportunity to vote and feel safe in their community without fear or harassment. Provide broad access to shelter, social services, and provide legal counsel and quality education for the children of homeless families. A study from Greendoors.org stated that 89% of the homeless would work in order to better their lives if presented with the opportunity opportunity,to do this we would need to offer a drastically different form of public assistance, we would take a more proactive approach and house the homeless through housing vouchers offered by the state government while offering job training while they reside within the program, to qualify there would be a pre screening which would include drug tests, and contract stating that they will abide by a set schedule until the program is complete. We would then offer classes for specific job training (such as pest control, catering, building maintenance, carpenting, construction, and others specialties). We have courses for job interview training, and supply them with donated business professional clothes so that they could be prepared and look prepared for the job. However the goal isn’t just to help the people who are currently homeless, we must also prevent people from becoming homeless, a study from calcep.org showed that 88% of the homeless do not have a degree higher than a high school diploma.
The correlation is clear, if we promote a higher education and make it affordable to educate yourself not only will the homeless population drop, but we will have a more secure future for this nation, therefore the final “step” to this plan would be a push for affordable higher education.Being homeless is tough, not just physically but mentally. However not everyone feels as if this should be a problem the common taxpayer needs to address. Articles such as Homelessness: How Government Policy Makes It Worse, by Tracy Miller stress how people are supposed to be driven, and that by providing government-funded services to the homeless with no strings attached we only “make it easier for some of them to continue their bad habits, whether the problem is substance abuse or an unwillingness to accept responsibility for personal behavior” (Miller, 2017, pg 2) He also mentions in her article that homelessness can be a tool used by people for fraud as many single-parent families would like to move into government subsidized housing, but since it is in short supply, they would have to wait years for a subsidized apartment to open up, however “by becoming homeless, a family who was living in someone else’s home can move to the front of the line for government-subsidized housing.
” He also argues that programs to assist with addictions and mental health, are expensive, and often have low rates of success he argues that there are better left with the private organizations and homeless groups for assistance. However he fails to address the fact of how much money we would save if we were able to properly treat the homeless according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development the average cost of a homeless person on the street is about $40,000 per person, so if we simply reinvest all the money we use currently and move it toward a more proactive form of system we would begin to lower the amount of homeless and would see savings in our budget over an extended period of time.
If we can change the media’s perspective and educate the people on the issue, representatives have to listen, and with time we won’t have the embarrassing title that is highest homeless population for an industrial nation. Homelessness is not a one solution thing it’s a step by step process that starts with getting the people willing to see the truth and actually want to address this issue, not just take on the stereotypes that the media has spoon fed us. John Locke believed everyone had the right to property and a secure place of living, but nowadays homelessness is a sad norm for our country, and these people are put in danger on a daily basis, whether it’s because of sex trafficking, physical violence, depression, or suicide, being homeless is more than just a home, it’s about reforming and rehabilitating individuals who have fallen on hard times in order to give them a fair chance at reaching their American Dream.Work CitedBlau, Reuven, et al. “Homeless veteran ‘basically baked to death’ at Rikers.” NY Daily News, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, 19 Mar.
2014Jamie Munks Las Vegas. “‘Campus’ for homeless in Las Vegas on track to open in March.” Las Vegas Review-Journal, 25 Nov. 2017Corbin, April.
“From sidewalk to sanctuary: Las Vegas developing campus where the homeless can rest, find resources.” LasVegasSun.com, 19 June 2017 Lasuertmer, David, Madness in the Streets: Mental Illness, Homelessness and Criminal Nelson, Sarah E.
, et al. “Moving ahead: Evaluation of a work-skills training program for homeless adults.” Community mental health journal 48.6 (2012): 711-722. Lavan v. City of Los Angeles, United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. Central District of California, September 5th, 2012Press, Berkeley Electronic.
“Public Service Reductions Associated with Placement of Homeless Persons with Severe Mental Illness in Supportive Housing” by Dennis P. Culhane, works.bepress.com/dennis_culhane/4/.Sheffield, Jonathan.
“A Homeless Bill of Rights: Step by Step from State to State.” Law e commons, 2013