By a local philosopher and writer.
Our community is currently evaluating, and is attempting to address, the needs of local homeless people. In the process, we find that our discussions have become awkwardly polarized. On one hand, some of us emphasize human needs of the homeless, and urge a vigorously “compassionate” approach. On the other hand, some perceive significant public costs and dangers of interacting with, and of encouraging this population element.
These claims compete even within the thoughts of single individuals. Many of us find the matter confusing. We struggle to attain some sort of “balanced” view.
The problem seems untidy by its very nature. Yet somehow we must arrive at a response which is at once socially responsible, practically workable, and broadly acceptable within the community.
Emotional appeals or mere rhetoric will not provide an answer. Instead, we need a public process within which all significant concerns are thoughtfully considered. Passions need to be tempered. There must be real listening and dialogue. In fact, our community is currently attempting to engage in such a process.
I offer here, in support of such dialogue, an outline of relevant questions and concerns. Perhaps this might prove useful as a problem-solving tool.
Q: What is a “homeless” person?
What sorts of people become homeless?
What causes people to become homeless?
How big is our local homeless problem?
What are the basic needs of homeless people?
What are their common ancillary needs?
Q: How do homeless people affect public safety?
How do homeless people affect public health?
How do they affect our everyday life?
What costs are associated with various strategies for
addressing local homelessness?
What are the risks of attracting more homeless people to the area?
How can these elements best be managed?
Q: What are some practical considerations which encourage
local efforts to address homelessness?
What are the moral arguments?
How are responsibilities to be shared?
What opportunities exist for cooperation among groups,
programs, and funding sources?
Q: What items need to be controlled – At the level of individual homeless facilities or programs?
– At the community level? What are some appropriate means for controlling them?
Requirements for Individual Programs
Q: Restrictions on location? Requirements for physical premises and furnishings?
Rules of behavior? Necessary supervision?
Required liability insurance? Stipulations for administration and program accountability?
Toward a Community Plan
Q: What are the community’s long-run goals regarding the homeless? What community groups and institutions are likely
What local resources might be available?
What external programs and resources might also help? How
can local efforts to aid the homeless best be coordinated?
What is the role – of local government? – Of other entities?
We invite our readers to respond and share your ideas. For example, an opinion: It is essential to team up with those conscientious few who are personally acquainted with local homeless folks. – Editor
The composer of this questionnaire feels he will be more effective if he remains anonymous.