“Homeless Hotspots” – is this marketing campaign a friend or foe to un-housed folks? NCH has been getting a lot of requests-for-comment. As a membership organization that advocates with (not for) homeless individuals, we depend, rely and are primarily informed by the opinions of people who are homeless. So, we asked our members for their feedback and this is what we heard.
NCH believes it should focus its time and attention on the three primary causes and solutions to America’s homelessness: affordable housing, living wage jobs and accessible healthcare. So, we asked if this was a relevant issue for us to be discussing. The response was clearly a “yes”. No matter how you feel about the issue of “Homeless Hotspots”, it’s a conversation about jobs.
Next, we asked if this was a living wage job. The general agreement was “no”. But, when we asked folks who had done similar types of “jobs”, they said that they took the work knowing how much it paid and that it was temporary. Some people used the experience just get a little spending money and others thought it might help them to get a little work experience before taking on a more permanent job. People compared it to selling streets newspapers. One “Homeless Hotspot” worker described his pay as $20 per day and $2 for each person he could get to use the serve. It worked out to about $8 an hour. So for most folks we asked, it seemed to pay close to a living wage.
Lastly, we asked if jobs like the “Homeless Hotspot” job treated homeless people as less than human, or like an object and not like a person. The responses were clear and consistent. Most people felt that being homeless in America can be, and often times is, a dehumanizing experience. Being homeless means being ignored or treated like “something” unwanted. The “Homeless Hotspot” gave folks on the streets a reason for people to talk to them.
So, NCH’s comment is that we need a lot more affordable housing, many more jobs that pay a living wage, and improved access to healthcare. Unless and until then, we’re going to have homelessness in America. “Homeless Hotspots” isn’t the answer, but it’s not the problem either. If we want to get mad, and NCH thinks we all should, let’s get mad for the right reasons and at the right people. If we’re going to end homelessness, we’re going to need much more funding and lots more new and innovative ideas.
Thanks again to all our members for making us a better organization, and thanks for your support in Bringing America Home!