HOMELESSNESS: A Political Issue

We are just days away from inaugurating President Barack Hussein Obama. President Obama claims to be progressive, offers hope and promises to bring change (which I already have plenty of in my pocket). Fortunately for the residents of Washington, DC, he also pays attention to local issues. He has made mention of DC Public Schools in a debate with John McCain. (It stands to reason that he'd be interested in how the educational system functions, being that he has 2 school-age daughters.) While senator, President Obama also voted to give DC full voting rights. (DC is often called "the last colony" due to its representative in Congress not having full voting rights and to the inordinate amount of congressional oversight of local affairs.) Furthermore, he has sent 2 men from his senatorial office to learn about the issue of homelessness, as indicated in the previous blog post. All of this just leaves you to wonder whether he'll retain his interest in the local issues of DC or those concerns will be eclipsed by national and international issues.

Fortunately, the Obama rage rages on. People all over the nation are devising their agendas for the new president. They are developing a social consciousness and getting involved in the running of the nation (like the good people of Thailand).His transition team is, no doubt, being inundated with suggestions from the American people as to what changes he should bring to the nation. Many of those people are right here in DC. I'm one of them.

With so many of those in the periphery throwing their ideas into the center of the circle, which domestic concerns take precedence with the president remains to be seen. It is human nature to be selfish and to think that your problems are the worst problems in the world and that your concerns are the most important concerns in the world. (I know from experience that being the one that so many look up to means that you often get flooded with requests and concern.)

People become homeless for a myriad of reasons. It's been said that "All roads lead to Rome". In this particular application of this metaphor, the roads would be symbolic of the various problems and social ills of our society such as mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, condo conversions and the lack of affordable health care, a living wage or affordable housing. The "Rome" which all of these roads lead to would, of course be representative of homelessness. In lieu of the fact that so many problems can and do lead to homelessness, it behooves President Obama to focus a considerable amount of his attention on solving the problem of homelessness.

I'd venture so far as to say that he could devise a domestic policy by setting up office at a large homeless shelter and proceeding to address the issues of its residents. In so doing, he'd encounter every problem with which our nation is faced. In some cases the person would have had direct involvement and personal experience with a problem. In other instances there will have been a trickle-down effect. But, as the president begins to trace each problem presented to him by a homeless person to its roots and to solve them, he'd eventually solve every major problem with which the nation is plagued.

All of this begs the question: "When, if ever, will homelessness become a relevant political issue?". My honest opinion is that, slowly but surely, it's beginning to happen even now. The headlines are chock full of stories about tent cities popping up all over the nation and municipal governments placing families in motels to the tune of $110/day. Let's not forget the story of a 90 year old woman who shot herself (and lived) because she feared that Fannie Mae would foreclose on her house. (Fannie Mae eventually decided against foreclosing on her house.) Then there are those with skills such as doctors and lawyers who are taking unskilled jobs as waitresses and stock boys. there are former middle-class people who are joining the ranks of the homeless. Capitalism has run its course and is imploding on itself. The established system is unraveling right before our very eyes. It is like a derivative of the Indian Caste System in which you can move to a lower caste but not a higher one. The middle and upper classes are shrinking and the poor, homeless and dispossessed are swelling their ranks. It is just a matter of time before the "have-nots" have to teach the "haves" how to make do and to live without all of their creature comforts. It won't be long before the issue of homelessness takes center stage.

In the meantime, it is up to the homeless as well as the homeless advocates to keep hope alive and to make sure that the fight to end homelessness doesn't lose momentum. We must continue to confront our local, state and federal governments and to press them for solutions to the problem. Let homelessness be the spot we continually take a shot at, like a boxer just pounding away at one part of his opponent's body until it is sore bruised. Let's demand solutions to homelessness from government. After all, housing is a human right. Keep Hope alive. (She's such a pretty gal.)

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