Friday, December 26, 2014

Homelessness a Choice?

Yesterday I was talking with dear friends about homelessness. The notion that a lot of homeless people choose to be homeless came up. Thoughts of when I was homeless, freezing on a cold New Mexico winter's night came to mind. I didn't choose it. I resisted the notion of homeless people choosing to be homeless.

The annual Point-in-Time Count conducted in January 2014 shows there were 49,933 homeless veterans in America.

I am only one person though. Then it hit me. I really didn't know if people choose to be homeless. I guess out of all homeless people there must be people who choose to be in that condition, but what are the hard numbers? I had no idea. I don't like it when I am ignorant about such an important subject. Even though I had always considered the argument that homeless people choose it a red herring, I was only going by my own experiences.

So what are the facts? What are the hard numbers on homelessness, and the option to choose that? I found this article which was enlightening. After reading it I must confess, I still believe the vast majority of people do not choose to be homeless. Here are a few select quotes from the article, and a link. I hope you find this enlightening too.

Homelessness Myth #14: They Choose to Be Homeless

Christine Schanes, Consultant, public educator, attorney

"Certainly, the nearly 50 percent of homeless people who are women and children don't choose homelessness over being housed."
"Motioning toward the young person, I said to Jerry, "If right now I were to give you the choice to exchange your lifestyle for his lifestyle with an apartment, refrigerator, bathroom, TV and car, would you do it?"

Jerry was silent. He didn't respond. He just kept looking down."

"In my opinion, one choice from two or more options is only a true choice when the consequences of the choices are equal or nearly equal. The choice between living in a home or living on the streets is an unequal choice because of their unequal consequences."