Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

America Has A Homelessness Compassion Problem

The ongoing criminalization tactics in places like Tennessee and New York towards homelessness show we are out of touch with empathy.

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A sanitation worker talks to Neil Singh, a homeless man who has been living on Eldridge street for almost two years, as he is forced to dismantle his structure and move after receiving a notice from the city Department of Sanitation as part of Mayor Adams policy to remove homeless encampments, April 11, 2022, in the Chinatown neighborhood of New York City, New York.
A sanitation worker talks to Neil Singh, a homeless man who has been living on Eldridge street for almost two years, as he is forced to dismantle his structure and move after receiving a notice from the city Department of Sanitation as part of Mayor Adams policy to remove homeless encampments, April 11, 2022, in the Chinatown neighborhood of New York City, New York.
Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis (Getty Images)

In a time when inflation is high, and rents are rising to unaffordable levels for most working-class people around the country, I wonder why cities are showing such callousness to the homeless. Over half of a million Americans identify as homeless, and 59% live paycheck-to-paycheck. Why is there an eagerness to destroy encampments and push homeless people out of sight in temporary solutions that will only worsen their situations? We haven’t learned any lessons of compassion for those less fortunate–especially coming out of a pandemic where many experienced excessive loss.

That person you walk past with a sign asking for change to get something to eat may have not always been that way. They could be people who moved to a city for a job and were suddenly part of layoffs. So, in a place like Tennessee that just passed a bill that essentially criminalizes homelessness and in New York, where encampments are being destroyed with no solutions, cruelty seems to be the point. As long as the landmarks look great for tourists to spend money, that’s all that seems to matter.

“Why don’t they just get a job?”

It’s hard to do that when you don’t have an ID, can’t get your Social Security card, birth certificate, or have access to clothes or a shower.

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Why can’t homeless people stay in a shelter?

For many homeless people, it’s safer to live on a street in a tent than to go to a shelter. Just in New York alone, a record amount of homeless people died last year, and many have cited a lack of funding for shelters as to why they feel like a prison.

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It’s also not as simple as pushing homeless people into court-ordered treatment for mental illness and addiction. California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to make a CARE court is receiving pushback from many advocates because it doesn’t prioritize the one thing people need–housing. Violent crimes are increasing because of the prevalent dehumanization view of people we could all join with one bad week.

Homelessness isn’t a fascist case study, as stated in comments by Tennessee State Sen. Frank S. Niceley–it’s an issue that we can’t turn our backs on. In a country that often displays its abundance of wealth, it’s a shame it still hasn’t learned to share it.