This is an opinion piece written by Taylor Biro. I found it here. Taylor is a community activist and social worker. She specializes in working with folks who are living outside and who are at risk of exploitation.
Re: "Neighborhood opposes location of City Walk shelter," Feb. 7, 2021
I am sick of the “homeless issue” on Mahan and Monroe. I cannot believe we have allowed these dangerous people to tarnish our town for this long — and I'm not talking about people experiencing homelessness. I’m talking about the “concerned citizens” and public officials who are spewing anti-homeless propaganda because they are just now having to deal with the “homeless issue.”
As somebody who has worked for the past decade with people experiencing homelessness, let me share what I know to be true: The majority of people battling with significant substance misuse are living inside stable housing; over 90% of children who are sexually assaulted know their abuser; and nearly all the people living with a severe mental illness are not homeless, they are living indoors as your neighbors.
The main difference is a lot of folks who are homeless lack adequate support systems. Our community can either be their temporary support or deepen their problems. The path we choose will come back to us as our community karma.
What did we think was going to happen when the city booted everybody out of Lake Ella and sent in police to slash tents and clear out camps? Where did you think everyone was going to go when all the shelters were full due to the pandemic?
And, this may be an unpopular opinion, but I no longer think we have had a significant increase in homelessness in our community due to COVID. I think folks experiencing homelessness are just no longer hidden inside coffee shops, libraries and day centers. More people are having to open their eyes to what homelessness looks like in our community. And I say, let 'em look.
I want everyone to be inconvenienced by homelessness, because then we can’t ignore it. We can’t ignore that folks go to bed hungry, that women are exploited each night for a place to lay their head, that children are disappeared into foster care, and that our jails are spilling over because we as a community have failed each other.
We have this idea that people who are living in homeless shelters are mooching off the system for years and years, but the truth is, most of the people staying in our homeless shelters will self-resolve in only a few weeks or a month. Most people just need boost of support and then they are back on their feet.
To be clear, I’m not saying City Walk was right or wrong with how they opened the shelter.
But say City Walk does end up moving. Where would you like them to go? Seems to me nobody wants a homeless shelter near their home, kids or business. Where should we exile these people so they don’t affect our property value or sully our view?
Well, maybe they should go into homes — because that is the only way to end the “homeless issue.” And lucky for us, that also happens to be the most cost-effective way to end homelessness.
So put down the pitchforks and join us in battling the real homeless issue. Together we can work to increase affordable housing, vote for a livable wage, pass free health care and comprehensive mental health care, abolish prisons, and just sit in right relations with one another.
A brighter future starts when we see value in all our neighbors and stop defining people’s worth by their productivity. Just disappearing these folks and telling them they matter less hurts all of us. And this anti-homeless rhetoric on social media and in public meetings is uglier than anything I’ve ever seen on Mahan or Monroe Street.