Understanding the Struggles of Homelessness

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Photo Credit: Kyle Green

"Poor circumstances ranging from domestic abuse and lack of affordable housing to unemployment and addiction may lead to someone losing their home."

Callie Rice, Managing Writer

They are the disenfranchised faces we see on the streets every day. Some carry pets. Others hold children. They wander by foot, by bus, with the clothes upon their backs, bearing the burden of uncertainty for what tomorrow brings. We pass by without so much a lingering glance to where they lean against buildings or settle on benches. While we often have someplace to be, they have nowhere to go.

 

Homelessness, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is an “Individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” It is when an individual primarily sleeps in a place “not meant for human inhabitation,” or in a temporary shelter. Poor circumstances ranging from domestic abuse and lack of affordable housing to unemployment and addiction may lead to someone losing their home.

 

In an email interview, BHS senior, Hallie Hinchman, wrote that homelessness “doesn’t discriminate based on gender, race, or intelligence. There is no single path to being homeless, and it can happen to anyone.”

 

Across the nation, the question of how to manage homelessness is prevalent among many other urban cities. Las Vegas, in particular, has seen a steady rise in its homeless population at a rate shelters cannot keep up with. Shelters such as the Salvation Army are already packed by nightfall, leading some of the homeless to remain out on the streets.

 

An upcoming ordinance will make it illegal to camp out on the streets. Violators can be fined up to $1,000 or thrown into jail for up to six months. This could be a precedent to future bans implemented by other big cities, including Boise. The act of criminalizing homeless individuals with access to few resources available not only impacts their mental state but their identity as well.

 

“Unfortunately, homelessness tends to be a chronic issue,” Hinchman wrote. “Because of the difficulty of getting hired and securing loans…many…start to feel hopeless because they feel that no one believes in them.”

 

As President of the Humanitarian Club, Hinchman talks about the two programs used to reach out to the homeless community. On the first Friday of every month, the club hosts Friendship Meals, where free meals are prepared for anyone in need. Hinchman started another program this year where members will go to Interfaith Sanctuary (one of Boise’s homeless shelters) one Saturday each month, engaging the kids in fun activities that they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so.

 

“We celebrate things like Halloween without thinking twice about it…a significant portion of our community…doesn’t have the opportunity to participate in light-hearted activities,” Hinchman explained.

 

This may be due to the general distrust of what homelessness implies, or the hesitancy on how to reach out and connect with those less fortunate. By participating in these programs, Hinchman shares genuine conversations with New Americans, the homeless, minorities, etc. to better understand their situations.

 

The act of acknowledging various faces we see on the streets, in shelters, and our community is the first step toward ending the alienization of the group of people who only get by with what they can: Because behind every face, there is a story worth listening to. 

 

“I recognize that it [homelessness] is a complex issue with no single solution,” Hinchman wrote. “Beginning to have these conversations is the most effective way to start to break away from the stigmas we have about each other.”