It’s time to start caring more about the homeless than ourselves

By Shreya Partha

Illustration by Shreya Partha
LOOKING BEYOND OURSELVES: It takes a global pandemic for us to start taking initiative and reexamine our empathy toward the homeless.

As the novel COVID-19 outbreak continues, the challenges homeless people face are becoming increasingly worse. Shelters are either full, closed or replete with the risk of coronavirus to even consider sleeping in. 

But the issue of homelessness has been a long-standing crisis that has only gained recognition when the coronavirus brought the issue to light. In fact, over half a million people are homeless in the U.S., according to the Council of Economic Advisers.

However, it is only now that we have started taking an initiative to try and fix the issue. The fact that it took a global pandemic to force us to look beyond ourselves and to the homeless community reflects negatively on us as a society. What’s even more disconcerting is that even the actions taken now are only because the virus will affect us directly; after all, keeping the homeless sheltered and isolated is the best way to protect ourselves. 

As officials scramble to contain the spread of the virus, several strategies across the country are being implemented. 

According to the LA Times, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced homeless people would be prioritized as a vulnerable population. Although he only offered a few details, he said there would be a massive attempt to relocate people off the streets and into hotels and motels across California. 

Newsom said California has reached its goal of securing more than 15,000 hotel rooms for the homeless, according to Mercury News. Regardless, the state has only moved 4,211 homeless people into temporary shelters, filling only about 38 percent of the total rooms available. 

This proves that even with the tools to help people, the priority of helping the homeless still remains low, and supposed “efforts” to help them are not as effective as the governor makes it seem.

Unfortunately, it is still unclear as to whether these changes will still be in effect in the long term. In wake of the pandemic, the hope is that our priorities will be better aligned toward serving the homeless community and providing a more permanent solution for the vulnerable.

This pandemic only further proves that we have the means to provide shelter to the homeless. The fact that we are not doing it until it directly affects us says a lot about the society we live in. We should make helping homeless people a priority from the start, not something to deal with when we feel like it.  

According to the HomelessWorldCup, more than 40 million people are living in poverty, and 18.5 million are living in deep poverty, with a family income below the poverty threshold.  That being said, homeless people make up a considerable amount of our population and to sit back and do nothing for such a vulnerable part of our community goes against the morality we pride ourselves on.

We have the means necessary to help these people, so the reality should be that even once the pandemic subsides, we don’t lose our humanity with it.

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