Out of sight, out of mind doesn’t actually work.

A friend sent me this article about how the city of Sacramento was going to buy a hotel and turn it into homeless housing. According to the article, the plan was scrapped because a developer got upset – they were concerned that their funders would abandon their own project. Making a profit apparently is far easier when poor people aren’t around to be bothered with.

This is just more of the same attitude that has been around for a long time. It’s the idea of putting the poor out of sight so we don’t have to see them. Make them someone else’s problem and make them go away.

That’s so Christ-like, isn’t it? Not!

Why does humanity insist on doing this? It doesn’t ever work. No part of that plan has ever solved homelessness or poverty. It hasn’t helped a single person. It doesn’t reduce the number of people who experience homelessness. It doesn’t make the “problem” go away.

It’s short sighted. It’s thin skinned. It’s selfish. But God forbid we deal with something uncomfortable and actually try to change the situation.

“But look at how much it will cost!” is the cry. Oh Heavens! Do we not realize that it costs far less to just deal with the problem of homelessness and poverty rather than shifting it around, putting it on someone else’s shoulders, or investing in ways to make the problem go away? Apparently not.

Did you know that it costs a great deal more to society to ignore or not deal with homelessness than to deal with it directly? That’s because homelessness is not a personal problem. It’s a communal problem. If someone is homeless, they don’t have the money to pay for many things. Guess what – those costs end up coming out of other people’s pockets, including yours.

Someone who is homeless is probably dealing with health issues. They may not even have any insurance. Often they have no doctor. Guess where they go for medical care – a hospital. And we all know that hospital care is far more expensive than other medical care. Guess who pays for this – you do in the form of higher premiums.

Someone who is homeless is probably hungry, which creates health issues. Someone who is homeless relies on their vehicle (if they have one) for not only transportation, but also housing (many people live in their cars). How do you think that works for someone’s health?

That’s not even talking about the stress of homelessness – figuring out where you are going to sleep or what you will eat next. Most cars don’t carry a fridge for storage or left overs or have a stove or microwave to cook in.

People who are homeless work. If you are struggling with health issues, and have a vehicle that isn’t totally reliable and it breaks down, how do you get to work? You might lose your job.

These all have consequence on the wider society. They cost society in many ways. There’s a financial cost to homelessness for a society – and not just in terms of programs designed to help people. There’s a cultural cost, a moral cost, a congruency cost, and a trust cost. These are far more expensive than the financial costs. They are immaterial and impact many people. This is why it is far easier to deal with the problem of homelessness and poverty directly.

But do we have the guts to do that? Or would we rather make it someone else’s problem?

I wonder how you feel when things get shoved to you to figure out or deal with? Do you like it? I’m willing to bet you don’t. So don’t do it to someone else. Especially don’t do it and then pull resources to help towards a solution.

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