Where Are They Supposed to Go?

by Yolanda Catzalco

First, let it be clear: Because of the current economic system we live under, the choice of how to live should be ours, not the government’s.

Rents are skyrocketing, as documented by countless local and statewide surveys, such as one that found that over 50% of unhoused seniors in California were receiving an average of $960 a month and lost their housing. Once seniors are unhoused, most have difficulties in being rehoused. The majority of those surveyed said that they wouldn’t have lost their housing if they had received subsidies. 

Youth and adults of all ages, including families with children and college students are also unhoused. 

Many of those unhoused have found relief from neighbors in large encampments. In Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and in Phoenix, Washington state, and Tennessee, among other states, people have banded together not just to survive: They also formed communities, helping each other, physically and emotionally. 

Policymakers and media have put out a narrative that says homeless people refuse services offered to them in favor of remaining homeless. But unhoused people have their own reasons. Among the reasons for refusing shelter are limitations on pets and possessions allowed, separations of couples, and terrible previous shelter experiences, such as thefts, violence, lack of privacy and being forced to share dwelling with someone they don’t know or trust.

In its lawsuit against the City of San Francisco, the Coalition on Homelessness cited 3,000 cases where homeless people were jailed and cited for living on the streets—without being offered shelter.

America, whether homeless people accept shelter or not, jail and citations are not the solutions. 

Where are the unhoused supposed to go?

America, don’t turn your back on the poor and unfortunate who become unhoused because of rising rents, health emergencies, deaths of family members or roommates, layoffs, or COVID.

Jesus Christ preached while homeless. Take up the homelessness cause in your church, schools or union meetings.

Remember: Let the voice for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ring out for those who have little choice other than to live on the streets, in parks, in vehicles or encampments.

Don’t let the government get away with jailing, citing and sweeping our unhoused neighbors for not accepting inappropriate offers of shelter. The United Nations declared in 1948 that housing is a human right. Let’s stand up for the human rights of our unhoused community members.