Imagine if you drive down I-45 to get where you’re going on the other side of Houston, now visualize it while on I-45 you reach the part of the highway that elevates in downtown & you pass by the Advantage BMW Midtown elevated display where you see brand new shiny BMW’s on display to passerby’s on the Highway, now imagine in the same place underneath the the actual highway ( the pierce elevator as it’s called) there lies several homeless people. This might seem like a thing that is not happening but it is something that you see a lot especially growing up in this area. This is not an isolated case by any means because you see it elsewhere, & people are homeless for different reasons, it’s a thing that is very complicated socially & at the same time never say never because you never know when you or someone else will be affected by it. Overall when talking about this subject it’s very nuanced & effects everyone some way so why not talk about it.
What is it truly?
By definition, it is when a person lives below minimum standards or can’t secure tenure, that is what being homeless is from a definition standpoint. This makes sense because it’s straight forward in answering the question of what it is, so on paper, it’s simplified, however outside of a definition that explains it, there is so much more nuisance that goes into it from a worldly standpoint. If you are chronically without a home then you are considered homeless, this is what most people relate it to most times, the person under the overpass of a city sleeping there by choice or because they missed the specific time at the shelter which left them in the predicament (more on this later). However this isn’t the only example we can use to explain what it is even though we already have an idea, however, if you live with other family or friends but you’re still with your parents or by yourself with someone & they or you don’t own or rent at the address like you or immediate family doesn’t (i .e. your parents) no matter the situation even if your there to take care of someone you are technically considered homeless, which I’m cognizant of because I have lived it before starting in 2008 because after my grandfather’s death (my mom’s father) we moved from an apartment we were in to her residence to take care of her after his death that spring (which in hindsight was a lapse in judgment, because that shouldn’t have happened at that time especially after someone dying) the result of this I was sleeping on a pink couch in a den still going to La Marque High School & helping with my grandmother on top of everything else like athletics or academic decathlon like we’re doing from our own place when I was younger in age, now with the added bonus of dealing with a person going through the grieving process, this didn’t change till 2017. The next form of it is displacement because of a natural disaster. Living on the gulf coast in southeast Texas it is a crapshoot far as hurricanes hitting us since we’re so close to the coast, when Katrina happened there were several people displaced because of it, leaving people to go to other places like we had families that started living in our area and going to our school in 2005, then Rita happened the same year & in response people were evacuated from my area and were on counterflow lanes (when inbound lanes were turned into outbound lanes for several miles) & people were stuck on the road to other Texas cities 24 hours if they were lucky, however it was more of a false alarm in essence because my area really wasn’t hit, in 2008 we experienced Rita which we were told about but because of the hurricane in 2005 people hunkered down of rather than going somewhere else, we received damage and things were changed some because of it like in Galveston or the High School football schedule but it wasn’t a detrimental thing. However, this all reached a head with Harvey, after previous experiences with hurricanes before we got hit with a storm that left us humbled in a sense because it stalled over the greater Houston area & after its first pass it hooked back in to do even more. The real problem wasn’t the actual storm, but the water that came down (50+ inches to be precise) which didn’t have anywhere to drain fast enough using the flood rulers on the roads some too & even rivaled tropical storm Allison or even the tax day floods. One thing it reiterated was a storm doesn’t care how rich or poor you are or even what race, they really don’t discriminate & it forces you to never say never because a lot of people were homeless because of it including my family. When you look at being homeless it can happen many ways from someone having problems being displaced because of a storm & no one is truly above it.
What we’re doing now?
When I speak on this I do it from my perspective and views on it, when I was younger my dad who was a charter bus driver (& still is but does different things like park and ride weekdays and other charters weekends if they are available) use to work a route called the ACCESS Bus which shuttled homeless people to significant places like the VA in the medical center the Star of Hope & even other places that are essential to improving situations or even getting out of being homeless altogether, he did it for several years and I even rode with him several times while at the same time he gave me a look into his perspective on it from time to time. If you look at what Homeless people go through in this society of America no matter what got them their or what they went through we tend to have a band-aid approach to it (fixing it temporarily) which can make people that volunteer or give of themselves feel good for their actions, but at the same time we need to rethink how we can improve the system so it’s not stagnant or just spinning the wheels. When talking about the different aspects of it from the people in it, to different services, etc each factor has it’s own pros & cons, like looking at the service side of things certain things work well but with with anything a system can be gamed by someone messing it up for people that follow that don’t want to be in the situation but tread a harder path because of it like, disability, no child left behind, or social services as examples. The flip side of that coin is certain to rule sets that certain social services have to abide by in order to receive help like the curfew for certain shelters or even thresholds people have to meet to even be eligible. On paper, certain stipulations make sense because if you’re needing help you have to abide what a person needs & this works a majority of the time, but the times it doesn’t it impedes some people from doing something’s because they can’t fully do everything wanted. The other side of this issue is the people in it in the first place, you can have this great program that meets every criterion of getting a person to a better place but it is truly predicated on the participation of people in the situation for it to happen. My dad saw it so many times and would even let me know about it from time to time, where he would see people have this opportunity to do better than the second prior but didn’t want to follow the stipulations set out to do it & would rather do their own thing like they’ve been doing. It becomes a situation of leading a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. The final factor is the mindset & actions of the population. People that are well off when it comes to their own lives are the driving force in each program because most times manpower is needed to make it happen, qualms come in because that help comes at specific times and areas when help is needed year-round and not just when it’s convenient or good for the people doing it, like for example in the Houston area big times for people to participate are around the holidays or when they had the Super Bowls because there were new initiatives rolled out, however help is needed at other times too like other times of the year or even with other programs like local food banks helping people in poverty just steps away from being homeless or distribution of goods outside of normal shelters. All these things play there a role, but they have to be cohesive for them to work effectively.