I have been mulling over a conceptualization of how to solve homelessness. I must start by saying that I have always found the terminology ‘solving homelessness’ to be rather trite, as if it is a simple problem that just needs a solution from expert enough experts. However, I would suggest that our ultimate end must be the elimination of homelessness entirely, and that requires a solution.
So here it is: I believe that we must solve homelessness on three levels, the political, the perceptual, and the personal. The political means reforming and creating healthy public policies that meet the needs of all people. This includes such things as affordable housing, early prevention and rapid re-housing programs, comprehensive mental health services, low-barrier addiction services, increased social assistance, etc. I believe that this will require reform from within (ie. policy makers), but also pressure from outside the system (ie. protestors).
The perceptual means confronting public perceptions around homelessness. As long as homelessness is perceived as an appropriate outcome for poor personal decisions, there won’t be the public will necessary to create political change. And, as long as people who are experiencing homelessness are considered the undesireable other, they will continue to be traumatized by experiencing discrimination. Novel forms of media need to be utilized to engage the narratives we tell about poverty, and the injustices that are perpetuated.
The personal has two components. Firstly, we must continue the restribution of wealth to services that are delivered by individuals through a caring connection. What does that mean? That means tax-funded services such as shelters, food banks, health centres, etc. must continue to be enhanced until everyone’s basic necessities are being met. And, each one of these myriad service providers must focus on providing relational care that creates a space where people can empower themselves. Secondly, personal means each one of us being critically reflective about power relations and social hierarchies and our place within these. We must each improve ourselves and the way we live to break down these barriers, and be part of communities that see no economic divides.
This, perhaps, is how homelessness can be solved.