I’m surprised we’ve never done this topic before. Thanks to Linda for suggesting it. Homelessness has become a big issue in San Diego recently (see links). Nationally, it’s part of that constellation of problems that our political system tends to ignore, along with most anything else connected to poverty. Our stunted national debate pretty much starts and stops with debating whether homeless people are entirely at fault for their own misery or merely almost entirely. Public policy in many cities tries to “manage” the homeless problem so it’s less visible, and often leaves it to non-profit and private do-gooders to cope as best they can – even in deep recessions, when the need is greatest and the funding (public and private) dries up.
Yet, I don’t mean to imply that homelessness is not a complicated problem or would be fixable with simple solutions. In fact, it’s a really, really, tough issue because homelessness often lies at the intersection of many of our social ills (like joblessness, poverty, lack of affordable housing, over-incarceration) and people’s personal tragedies (such as mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse). I hope to learn more about all this at the meeting and from the links, below. Linda will run the show, but I’ll be there in my usual capacity to call on speakers in as arbitrary a manner as I can. The background readings focus on San Diego’s homelessness problem, which was Linda’s intent, but I linked toy much more information about the homelessness issue, provided by two organizations devoted to eradicating it.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- Who is homeless in San Diego and why? What about nationally? What role do personal factors play versus structural/economic factors? What does this tell us about solutions?
- What is San Diego doing about homelessness? How’s that going: what’s working and what is not working?
- What do other cities generally do – and not do – to combat homelessness?
- What would a more effective strategy against homelessness look like? What role would be played by our national government, state/local governments, and the non-profit sector and charities?
- How can we make people care more and judge less?
- Facts about San Diego’s homeless population; e.g., 1/3 are substance abusers and 45% are mentally ill. But, 1 in 3 have some college education and 1 in 6 are veterans.
- In 2011 San Diego began a major effort to end homelessness. Recommended.
- Yet, in 2014, the debate still rages over the best way to end the city’s homelessness problem.
- [Update: Obama has adopted a national plan to end homelessness.]
- Much more about our national homelessness problem from:
Next Week: Causes and Lessons of the Great Depression.