We Can End Homelessness and Hunger in Our Environment
Colby Clements, Division 3, College senior #ws16e-s3d3

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in 2015, there were over 500,000 Americans that were experiencing homelessness. I have personally worked with the homeless at shelters and food banks and have seen how living on the streets of Rhode Island can take a toll on their body, mind, and soul. There are many ways to help prevent the 500,000 homeless Americans without the fear of raising taxes. Rehabilitation programs, tent cities, and housing can help decrease, prevent, and end homelessness in the United States. “One in seven Americans face hunger daily.” (feedingamerica.org). We live in one of the richest nations in the world and yet we still have children going to bed hungry, parents giving up their meals to feed family members, and those becoming ill due to lack of nutrients. Large amounts of food are wasted every day in the U.S. This food could be used to feed the millions of starving stomachs. Homelessness and Hunger in the United States can be prevented if we all worked together to do so. We can make a difference.

Although a lot of people don’t want to admit it or believe that it is true, “about 38% of the homeless population avidly abuse alcohol, while 26% abuse other drugs.” (alcoholrehab.com). While some abuse alcohol and drugs as an escape, others became homeless because of their addictions. I believe that rehabilitation programs, AA, and other drug abuse programs are needed to help the homeless in hopes of their recovery. A lot of drug programs are already funded by the state while others are funded by private donations. Drug and alcohol programs help rehabilitate in all aspects of life. They provide support, mentors, half way housing, help locating jobs, and more. Having these programs more readily available for homeless addicts may help reduce the number of homeless Americans.

Realistically we cannot just give away houses to those in need. Tent cities have popped up around the United States. Tent cities are groups of tents located together to create a community. These are usually illegal and take place in abandoned areas, woods, or parks. Tents are not the ideal housing for most, but it can be a stepping stone for others. Tent cities should be legal in designated areas. Every state can designate a field, or an area that is not being used in order for the homeless to set up tents. Just like the average community, rules can be set in place and the people living in these areas will have to follow them. If they decide to not follow the rules, they are subject for removal. Tents are not a house, but they can provide some stability. People can go out and look for a job because they will not have to worry about constantly moving themselves and their belongings. They can use their tent “address” for applications to help with jobs. The goal of the tent city would be to provide cheap and safe “housing” for individuals and families who are trying to break out of their situation.
Approximately 8% and 50,000 of the recorded homeless males and females are United States veterans. (mosheroes.org). To me, this is the absolute worst. Homelessness in itself is extremely sad and devastating, but for someone who has served our country to come back and not have a home, well that is unacceptable. They can sacrifice their lives and families in order to protect our lives and rights and should be treated better. Home owners can help prevent veteran homelessness by opening up their houses. People take in students, refugees, and others in times of need, so why not in this case. Just like having an exchange student, people can take in these homeless vets. They can provide a room and food in exchange for cleaning, babysitting, yard work, etc. The amount of time can range from weeks to months, depending on the home owner’s preference. This would not be the ideal option for many, but those willing to help would make a huge difference for these men and women. They would be able to give back to the people who have given us so much.

According to foodrescue.net, “approximately forty percent of food in the U.S. is wasted every day.’ How are we allowing food to be wasted if we have people going to bed hungry? In order to end hunger, we need to save the food that is currently being thrown out and donate it to local food shelters. Restaurants, grocery stores and schools are huge institutions known for wasting food regularly. Current laws in most areas make it illegal for these institutes to donate unused food. Government needs to allow these places under special circumstances the ability to donate un-used, un-peeled and un-opened food items. Other countries have done this and have been successful. The donated food that would have been thrown out has helped to cut down on the amount of hunger in their areas. If the United States could do this, I truly believe that hunger would not be an issue.

Families that can afford food also tend to waste a lot of it. Cans and other food items go un-used which later become perished. All Schools, churches and local stores should have drop off sections that are easily accessible for all people who are willing to donate nonperishable or food items that are close to becoming expired. If we could get stores to give out coupons and promote the fact that they are always collecting food items, I think that more people would be willing to donate. Schools, churches and stores tend to do food drives near the holidays. Their intentions are nice and they are typically received well by the community. They are usually able to donate a lot of food to the food banks at the conclusion of these drives. Unfortunately, people are not just hungry around the holidays, but every day. The majority of the people in the U.S are good people. I doubt that they are wasting food on purpose. These people like myself just need reminders. A sign in the grocery store or an announcement weekly at school could do the trick. Citizens would be willing to donate if there were convenient and constant places to drop off food and this would help end hunger.

Minimum wage needs to be raised. An American working forty plus hours should not be struggling to afford housing and food. The cost of food and housing is so expensive and has increased dramatically over the years. In the past a person making minimum wage and working full time could provide for themselves, their family and in some cases still have extra money. In today’s society, a person would have to work way over forty hours in order to survive, never mind provide for a family. Although this may take a toll on local and small businesses, major businesses and corporations could afford to pay their employees a few dollars more an hour.

Finally, in both cases, we need to end the negative stigma. Some people believe that others become homeless or hungry because of poor actions or decisions that they have made. Don’t get me wrong, this can be true. Like you’ve read before, drug addictions and alcoholism as well as other factors have led some of these people to the poor place that they are today. However, becoming homeless or hungry is a realistic fear for many people and their families. Just like most tragedies, it can happen to anyone. A house fire can leave an entire family homeless in search of help. A parent losing their job because of an injury or illness can leave a young child starving and in search of food. It’s true that bad things can happen to good people. It is important for our community to not ignore the fact that people are in need. We are so willing to help other countries in their time of need yet we have people walking by American citizens in disgust because they can’t afford housing for their unknown reasons. We have teens assaulting the homeless because they believe that they are better than them. We have people who are bullying others, whether it is physically or verbally because they are in need. People are humans no matter what situation they are in and need the compassion of others. The negative stigma needs to end for the safety of all people. If the negative stigma was erased, then I believe that more people would be willing to help.

I truly believe that we can end homelessness and hunger. If we used all of the resources that the United States has available, there would be no reason to not help. The community needs to be reminded of what they can do to help with these causes. If we all work together, the amount of homeless and those going hungry would decrease if not end. People need to step up and help if we really want to see this come to an end.
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