Over the past few months, a lot of media attention has been given to President Obama’s plan to end veteran homelessness by 2015. Without a doubt, this plan is honorable, and was proposed with noble intentions. Veteran homelessness is a pressing issue, and with more soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of homeless veterans is set to increase. However, President Obama’s plan promotes the segmentation of the homeless population, a hidden issue that has been present since homelessness became a national problem.
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The segmentation of the homeless population refers to the division of the homeless into different groups such as single mothers, family, female veterans, veterans, LGBT youth, and immigrants. The segmentation of the homeless population subsequently causes services and resources to be divided and provided exclusively for chosen groups. While any service or resource for the homeless is commendable, it becomes a problem when services remain geared towards certain homeless groups, not the entire homeless population.
It is difficult to create and implement a plan that will solve national homelessness, and it appears that for now, the government and other institutions are focusing on eliminating homelessness of one group is more manageable. However, that logic leaves other parts of the homeless population bereft of necessary services and resources. Dividing the homeless population into different categories and then choosing a specific group to cater to, indicates that one homeless group is more deserving of government and private resources than another group. This is not the message that should be portrayed by government initiatives to solve homelessness.
Homelessness needs to be tackled from all different angles, including the varying factors that contribute to homelessness, such as a lack of affordable housing, lack of access to affordable health care, unemployment, and decent living wages. Government initiatives that would take into account the different contributing factors that cause homelessness would be beneficial and a step closer to solving national homelessness, rather than just veteran homelessness. My suggestion is not meant to belittle President Obama’s goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015, but rather, to bring awareness to the fact that segmenting the homeless population and solving it by groups is counterproductive to ending national homelessness. Ending veteran homelessness is an admirable goal, but providing access to affordable housing and healthcare and creating more jobs that provide decent living wages would certainly go a longer way to ending national homelessness and prevent the cycle from beginning once more.
-Sundal Ali, Intern