My biggest fear in life is being homeless and lately, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about homelessness because it is a very real possibility in the future. Furthermore, as we age, homelessness gets increasingly more traumatic and difficult and I am acutely aware of this. One of the things that prompted me to sit down to write this article was that I saw some churches and synagogues that looked ornate and beautiful with mostly empty parking lots and lights off on the inside. Religion espouses helping the less fortunate but how does having one large monument to what is, at best, a fictional entity help the less fortunate? These buildings are only busy at most two to three times per week. I look at these wonders of architecture and design and think to myself how many people this could house. How many families could have a stable place to live if this building were instead dedicated to what religion is truly about: housing the homeless.
As I was driving around my neighborhood yesterday, I then thought of Joel Osteen and the mega churches which are basically corporations selling salvation to their followers. Joel Osteen had to be publicly shamed before he would open his opulent home to the less fortunate in their time of absolute need. Furthermore this happened on more than one occasion yet Osteen is ostensibly forgiven because the wealthy are always forgiven for their transgressions. Joel Osteen’s place of worship is gigantic and I cannot help but wonder how many people could be truly helped if, instead of selling salvation, the money could have been put towards a far more modest place of worship and build homes for people.
As is usually the case when I think, I tend to branch out quite a bit. I start seeing large stadiums which only serve as monuments to capitalism. The American Football stadiums are also monuments to capitalism because they are huge, monolithic structures that make me shake my head. I wonder how many efficiency apartments could have been built in that space and how many lives could potentially have been improved. Instead it is a space that is used once a week for maybe 15 weeks out of the entire year. The rest of the time it sits empty and unused and this makes me very sad because it is wasted space. Imagine how much of a dent could be put in homelessness if we built structures to house people.
In these times when the divide between the wealthy and working class is at historically high levels, it is time to start thinking about housing as a basic human right, not a luxury. Housing should be considered a right of U.S. citizenship and guarantee. What makes a country great is not the ability of one to accumulate wealth and crowd out other people, but how a country takes care of all of its citizens. The wealthy will continue to make obscene amounts of money and we can allow them to do that but not to the detriment of guaranteed, rent-free housing for all who want it. Imagine if we solved the homelessness problem by housing the homeless. I would love to have a basic efficiency apartment that is owned and maintained by the state in return for the ability to live rent-free. We can pay for this program through the taxation of the wealthy and corporations. It’s not okay to earn billions without giving back to the communities which you are effectively fleecing. Those times are over. If you want to own a home, then you may feel free to buy one on the market. If you simply want a place to live in dignity, safety, and security then there will be an apartment available for you.
We solve homelessness in America by building homes. We do not solve it by building prisons and encouraging the homelessness-to-prison pipeline. We do not solve homelessness with a token voucher system that is almost impossible to qualify for. Once we solve homelessness, many of the other problems that occur as a result of homelessness (or the threat thereof) go away. We have a healthier population that is more vested in the community. We have less mental illness, addiction, crime, etc. Education rates rise because families will be more stable. America becomes a great country, not through economic prowess, but through strong social welfare programs that are open to all whom want/need them. We are not a great nation through military might but through a population where people can lead healthy lives.