Urban Homelessness

Urban Homelessness
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The nagging moral, ethical and humanitarian issue of homelessness is a global one. A wander into and across any metropolitan city of the world will reveal the extent and scope of the issue. The reasons for homelessness are many. Among these, poverty and mental health issues are the most salient ones. Consider an example. Post the 2008 financial crisis, whose main cause was subprime lending, that is lending to high risk borrowers for mortgage loans, and then securitization of the same, hundreds of thousands of people had to forego their homes and thus rendered homeless. But, this was or constituted a mild form of homelessness which entailed losing homes and most of the subprime victims did have some kind of an income. The most egregious form of homelessness is when people cannot afford a dwelling and thereby have to either live on the streets or just wander. Another form of homeless accrues from mental health issues where people lose their sense of space, place and time and then wander. Sometimes, there is a confluence of these two factors which makes people homeless. The phenomenon exposes the homeless to the elements , the general ruthlessness of society, illnesses and disease. The result is that their life chances are undercut and their mortality rates high, among other things. All this raises an obvious moral and ethical dilemma: what to do about these people and how can they be helped? Sometimes, the homeless are shunted and obscured from view; they are herded to places where they can’t be seen. This is an inherently cruel measure whose operating premise appears to be , “ out of sight and out of mind”. The underlying issue is not resolved but merely made to disappear from sight. Yet again this raises an obvious moral and ethical dilemma. The question then is: how can this issue be resolved? One prong of the answer lies in economic growth and development where all segments of society, especially the vulnerable benefit, so much so , in the least that they can afford a dwelling which accords them a dignified shelter. But, what about those for who homelessness accrues from psychological and emotional issues? The answer here lies in developing shelters which are manned by efficient and empathetic staff and which are provided with abundant resources. These shelters must actively scout for the homeless and help in their rehabilitation, to the extent can be. In the final analysis, homelessness cannot be entirely eliminated but through concerted measures, the problem can , to a large measure, be obviated.