A pub with outdoor seating, facing a busy street.
A warm evening.
A light breeze.
The pizzas arrived.
One had big chunks of meat on the top that looked like beef. It wasn’t.
I said my apologies to Winnie the Pooh for eating one of his friends (Kanga or Roo? How could I know?) and took a bite.
Everything tastes like chicken… except Kangaroo, apparently.
As I chewed, a man walked by on the street.
Unkempt, matted hair.
Long, untrimmed beard.
Dirty, ill-fitting clothes.
Large, tattered backpack.
He may not have been homeless, but I am 99% sure he was.
Apparently, chronic homelessness looks pretty similar everywhere… even in Australia.
I was in Australia for a week speaking at a conference in Bundaberg and conducting a series of trainings in Sydney.
I had mixed emotions about being in Australia.
- On the one hand, I was ecstatic to travel professionally to another country.
- On the other hand, I was frustrated that homelessness is a worldwide problem (I have done live trainings in the United States, Canada, Australia and Brazil).
Actually, my frustration goes further.
By all accounts, homelessness is increasing everywhere right now.
I did a quick Google News search for “homelessness” and here are the first few articles:
- Homelessness surging in many cities amid end to Covid assistance
- Rising homelessness is tearing California cities apart
- Homelessness in Rhode Island could reach an all-time high this winter
- [Chattanooga] responding to ‘unprecedented housing crisis’ of the homeless
- Fort Worth leaders say homelessness reaching critical levels
- Homelessness among Latinx residents in SF has skyrocketed since Covid-19 pandemic
- Increased homelessness in college students
- San Diego declares homelessness a public health crisis
- Oregon governor’s race: Homelessness policy could make or break the election
In case you were wondering, I did a quick search of other country’s news:
- Australia (“soaring homelessness”)
- Canada (“homelessness crisis”)
- Brazil (“up 16%”)
I have worked in homelessness since 1999, and this might be the worst I’ve ever seen.
…there is reason for hope.
Reason to hope?
Homelessness is not inevitable.
Homelessness is not unsolvable.
Homelessness is not unavoidable.
We created homelessness.
Homelessness—as we see it today—is a new phenomenon.
I did a search of newspaper articles from before 1963.
These articles are very representative of what I found:
- Homeless victims of war
- Ohio river flood leaves thousands homeless
- Fire that made 25,000 homeless
Do you see the pattern?
Homelessness was almost exclusively a result of war, flooding or fires.
It wasn’t an economic situation.
I will say it again: Homelessness—as we see it today—is a new phenomenon.
In fact, the modern sociological phenomenon of “homelessness” simply didn’t exist prior to 1980.
That is important.
If we can create homelessness in a few decades, we can end homelessness in a few decades (even in places where they eat Kangaroo pizzas!).
Empathy is the answer,