It’s National Roof Over Your Head Day, and we want to take this opportunity to talk about the homelessness crisis in the United States. According to the Point-in-Time Count of January 2020, 580,466 people were living without a stable roof over their heads. The COVID-19 pandemic, which hit just two months after that count, has not only been a medical threat, but has also exacerbated the homeless population’s needs for housing, food, transportation, and educational assistance.
There are many factors contributing to homelessness and the harsh conditions in which homeless people must live. They include lack of affordable housing, systemic racism, wealth disparities, drug addiction, and mental illness. Reason Magazine recently released a half-hour documentary about the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles, and it especially touches upon government-level bureaucratic issues that are perpetuating homelessness across the country.
It is becoming more clear that funding is best spent flexibly, according to the unique needs of organizations and communities. Thus, if you are looking to volunteer or donate money, consider supporting groups like Native-led coalitions, immigrant and refugee organizations, and afterschool programs. There are many groups that focus on particular subsets of the homeless population; for instance, check out these programs run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Programs that simultaneously support quality of life and basic needs can sometimes create the most impact, such as Lunch on Me, an LA-based organization that redirects organic food towards the homeless community while also providing yoga classes, block parties, and healing gatherings for women.
You can learn more about homelessness, potential solutions, and advocacy work here. We invite you to fight the crisis in ways that seem most meaningful to you, and we also encourage you to learn about the specific needs of the homeless people living in your community. With many different ways to approach the crisis, our combined efforts can make a difference.