Imagine living through the worst experience of your life — alone, cold, hungry — and instead of compassion or even basic decency, people you have never met call you a parasite.
Without help, there’s very little hope. I know, because that was me just two years ago — resigned to a life on the street, with no hope. People who cared reached out to me, and now I’m no longer hopeless nor homeless.
Business owners complain about homelessness and call to “rid the world of these parasites” in local press. I guess they don’t know that, statistically speaking, they may be closer to becoming homeless themselves. The majority of our unhoused neighbors didn’t choose this path, but were pushed into homelessness for economic causes. Just a lack of support, in a moment of crisis or repeatedly over a lifetime. We do not control what situations we are born into, the likelihood we fall victim to certain diseases, or how much wealth our family has accumulated.
I now do outreach to my homeless sisters and brothers on the streets, and I know, given the chance of a roof over their head, they’ll take it. A bed, a shower, food and a living wage job — it’s amazing how the things that most take for granted are being denied our homeless neighbors. We have the resources to solve homelessness, but we’re unfortunately missing the compassion.
Shaunn Cartright hit the nail on the head when she said, “Are these same businesses out there supporting rent control? Are these same businesses involved in saying, ‘Yes, we need more low-income housing?’” If more businesses and organizations would join the fight to end homelessness, especially those who are prospering during this pandemic, the homeless population could be decreasing, not increasing. There are many organizations, businesses and people who have stepped up to help. The help might come in different forms, but what these efforts have in common is a focus on making life better for our homeless neighbors, not harder.
The City of San Jose has not turned a blind eye. They and their partners are doing what they can to improve the quality of life for unsheltered individuals by supplying food, porta potties, hand washing stations, and even making progress on permanent housing for homeless individuals during a global pandemic.
To our community business owners, I encourage you to ask yourself: How can you help?
Lee Clark is Destination: Home’s coordinator for the Lived Experience Advisory Board (LEAB), a leadership development body consisting of members with current or past experience of homelessness.