As this issue hits the streets many of us will be attending the Homeless Memorial Service in Boston — Dec. 21 will mark the solemn service’s 29th year. There will be other services throughout the country over the next few days. We are once again confronted with the fact that people are dying in the street and once again we hope that we will learn and do the right thing, but we will fall short again.
According to HUD’S 2018 report, homelessness in the country has increased for the second time in two years. The report states estimates there are a little over half a million people homeless in America — and I’d venture to guess that it’s more than that (they may not be counted because they are couchsurfing or for one reason or another they don’t fall under the HUD definition of homelessness). And of course we get the old cliche that overall homelessness is down compared to 10 years ago. As though that’s supposed to make us all feel better.
In Massachusetts the news isn’t any better as the report shows that homelessness here has increased by 14 percent. For those of you counting that number is 20,068, up from 17,565 in 2017. Of course we’ll get the argument that we need more affordable housing and so-called homeless advocates will go on about how we can do better. There will be a call for more programs and more shelters, etc. To that I say, if you want to do better then do it. Stop with the gentrification and pushing people in poor people out of neighborhoods. Let’s take Boston for example: there are plans in Roxbury, East Boston, and Charlestown to build new housing and it’s not for the people who already live there. It also seems like every other week there is a new tower being built. Throughout the state there are plans to build luxury housing condos on waterfronts. How can anyone claim that they are doing all that they can to address homelessness and watch this happening without any outrage?
We all know the eventual outcome. People will be pushed out of their neighborhoods. Many will become homeless if they can’t find a place to live, which is made all that much harder with state housing authorities whose waiting lists are already bursting at the seams. Shelters are already at capacity. People are increasingly finding it harder to find housing due to high rent. Greed and negative assumptions about poor and homeless people create an aversion to Section 8 vouchers among landlords. Plus there are ridiculous obstacles in a lethargic system that hasn’t changed much in the nearly 30 years I’ve been at this. It’s only gotten worse.
And so here we are another year, another report from HUD and another memorial service for those that have been forgotten. If these people we mourn today were not indeed forgotten, if we had truly learned anything there would be no more need for a service or a report because there would be no more homelessness.