Homelessness, particularly within Florida, has become a growing issue, not just in numbers, but in lack of resources and safety for these individuals. The common misconception is that homelessness is self-inflicted, brought on by addiction, laziness, and financial irresponsibility, but the reality is: homelessness can result from job loss, sickness, growing up or living in broken homes, etc. Primarily homelessness springs from anything that causes reduced or lost income and inability to find affordable housing. Many times domestic violence victims are also at risk as many flee from their homes without any of their belongings in search of safety.
Homelessness does not discriminate; it can become anyone’s reality despite the demographic we fit into. No group is exempt—men, women, children, White, Hispanic, African American, young, elderly, single, married, etc. According to the Florida Coalition for the Homeless, 40% of all homeless people are families and 23% are children below the age of 19. NCB6 reported that of the 1 million homeless people in this country, 75,000 of those individuals are found in Florida.
Earlier this year, NPR reported that Hollywood City bought out a string of locations to make way for commercial development including a hotel property that served as a shelter for the Homeless Voice who covered rent by drawing from Homeless Voice newspaper sales or other limited governmental income. According to NPR, the city banned the hotel manager, Sean Cononie from residing in the city—he claimed it was to avoid the “slippery slope” of opening another shelter.
In order to offer support to these at-need communities, there are private assistance agencies, governmental agencies, and faith based organizations which house projects and programs of structural, financial, and educational merit. These resources however, do have their limits and have no way of ensuring safety for these people or continuity of support. In 2012, the National Coalition for the Homeless named Florida as the most dangerous state in the US for homeless people based on frequency of hate crimes in the state that year.
Organized groups exist at the local, state, and national level, but we can’t solely depend on them. We can offer support to the homeless community on our own—volunteer work in shelters and soup kitchens, fundraising alongside charitable organizations, advocacy, active involvement in politics, donations of clothing, food, toys, reading materials, toiletries, funds, and perhaps the most effective way of supporting—education of the issue and bringing in others to join the cause.
By Aura Altamiranda