if you are a political junkie or a casual observer, there seems to be something
for everyone as our political process unfolds. This Presidential election
season is one of the craziest, most unpredictable elections in American
history. But, like every other election season, there is one simple constant:
Presidential candidates hardly ever discuss the issue of homelessness in
never town forums, public debates, or large rallies on why there is
homelessness in our country, and how we, with the largest economy in the world,
can invest in a housing infrastructure that would prevent Americans from living
on our streets. Unlike the topics of foreign policy, or the economy, or
education, homelessness is just not a priority among Presidential candidates.
Here are five reasons why:
people are ANGRY. Yes, this election season can be described simply as the year
of the angry electorate. Whether the anger is coming from the right or the
left, voters are angry over the political establishment’s inability to actually make positive change for the
average citizen. But this angry electorate is coming from people who are
housed, not homeless. No one is angry that hundreds of thousands of Americans
are sleeping on our streets. And, even those who are homeless are not publicly
conveying their anger to their elected representatives.
directed toward people who are homeless. It is similar to blaming the victim
for the crime against her, our society blames people living on the streets for
their own sad predicament. They are lazy! Their addiction or mental health
problem (you fill in the blank) is the reason why they are homeless! They just
need to pull up their bootstraps and they can help themselves!
a candidate for President propose a compassionate solution to homelessness -
like affordable housing - when those who need help are accused of getting
themselves into their own homeless dilemma? Most Americans want their President
to provide solutions for hard working fellow citizens.
is a lose-lose political issue. No one wants to be called a loser, especially
someone running for the highest office in the land. If you are running for
President, you win brownie points when you fight for keeping jobs inside of the
United States, or demonize those greedy multinational corporations for laying
off average American workers.
It is so
hard to advocate for helping the homeless when more and more Americans are
ending up on American urban streets. There are so many reasons why people
become homeless, that an American political leader just doesn’t have the resources to prevent foster youth, veterans,
abused spouses, disabled workers, and low income mothers from becoming
seems to be a losing cause that doesn’t help a candidate win votes.
is sometimes the easiest default response. When a Democratic President, back in
the 1960s, called on our nation to engage in a war on poverty, some idealistic
Americans actually thought it would work. But fast forward more than fifty
years later, and poverty still ravages our country’s communities.
So if we
can’t eliminate poverty, despite a
valiant effort by an American President, why do we think we can actually end
homelessness, the most extreme form of poverty? Who wants to be the next
President who creates a failing social campaign to end drugs, or educate all of
our youth, or end homelessness? For an American Presidential candidate, it is
much easier to campaign for a better economy, or a stronger national security
plan. And, ignore homelessness.
delegate math just doesn’t add up. To become an
American President, the math is about counting delegates, not popular votes.
And when was the last time that a person who was homeless became a delegate for
a national political party? Just be real... People living on the streets
traditionally do not vote. And, they are typically not elected as delegates for
a presidential party.
can wish that presidential candidate would talk about homelessness, one of America’s most tragic social issues of our time. But the reality is
that unless we change the message of why homelessness should be not only
discussed, but actually placed on the front burner of American politics, we
will still be battling American homelessness in the next dozen election cycles.
we need to stop waiting for others to address these issues and do what we can
to create solutions on our own.
Joel Roberts PovertyInsights.org