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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Faceless holiday donations ignore real problem of homelessness

As the cold holiday season commences, some people decided in their hearts that it would be a great idea to donate warm clothes, blankets and shoes to homeless shelters in the community.

Some Tucson shelters also hold special winter programs to help provide a warm place for the coldest nights during winter.

It is very moving to see the amount of help that homeless people receive during this time of year, especially considering that they rarely receive the slightest form of respect on the streets.

While these donations are incredibly needed and immensely appreciated, they only help the homeless in our community for a short while.

“What drives them to be in the shelters is what we all need to look at,” said Jean Fedigan, executive director and treasurer for the Sister Jose Women’s Shelter.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the last count showed there were 578,424 people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. in January 2014.

Fedigan explained the most common issues she sees among the women in her shelter are mental health issues and drug addiction that were never treated.

As the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported, 26 percent of people living in homeless shelters are dealing with serious mental disorders.

It is evident that Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes, so why do we keep trying to help homeless people’s mental health issues with warm blankets and clothes?

Some homeless shelters, like the local Salvation Army Hospitality House, provide a limit of a seven-day stay every 30 days in order to motivate homeless people to work hard to get off the streets.

There are even other organizations that help the homeless find affordable homes and jobs that will help them make a small living.

However, we cannot expect these people to be able to triumph on their own if no one ever addressed the issue that they need most help with.

The NAEH also reported that about 9 percent of homeless people in the nation are veterans, many struggling with mental disabilities.

It is preposterous that a person who once gave up so much for the safety of our country cannot even find the proper help for the trauma that he or she was left with after serving in the military.

This goes to show how we’ve become perfectly fine with using people for a while and then leaving them on the streets, searching for food in dumpsters after they’ve given us all they have.

As stated by the NAEH, domestic violence is an “immediate cause” for homelessness in women. Also according to the NAEH, women who have survived domestic violence make up 12 percent of the homeless community, and many suffer from substance abuse and depression among other disorders.

Rather than helping these women regain their strength and putting them on the right path, we tend to offer them food and shelter for a while then leave them on the streets for further abuse.

“When people recognize you as homeless, they don’t give you much dignity or respect,” Fedigan said, referring to the abuse that homeless people encounter on the streets.

Instead of continuing and increasing the stigma against the homeless, we need to address the issues that are leaving hundreds of thousands of people on the streets with no food or shelter.

As the old saying goes: give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

By providing the homeless with clothes and blankets, we are only helping them for a day or two.

If we truly want to decrease homelessness within our nation, we need to address the mental health issues that left them in that position in the first place.

We need to realize these people are human beings worthy of our respect, not a bother on the streets.

Follow Genesis Lara on Twitter.

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