Homelessness continues to be increasingly relevant despite society’s desensitization

A homeless man (pictured above) in Boston. It seems that society has become accustomed to seeing homeless individuals on the streets in urban areas, causing a lack of empathy for them. This is unacceptable and increased awareness and advocacy for homelessness is necessary to help these individuals. (Matthew Woitunski/creative commons)

Homelessness is an issue that is extremely prevalent, but it seems that no one takes it seriously because it is so commonplace. There were around 553,742 homeless individuals living in the United States as of January 2017, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.   

It is not only common, but also expected to see homeless people lining the streets, especially in urban areas. Homelessness is likely one of the most difficult things a person can live through, yet it seems that the younger generations are becoming desensitized to its frequency.

This issue is not far from Geneseo, as “in recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s,” according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

This desensitization not only stems from the magnitude of the issue, but also the negative stigmas that surround being homeless. Although anyone can be impacted by homelessness, “people on the streets are often treated with distaste,” The HuffPost reports.

Being homeless does not necessarily reflect a person’s mental state or morality. Quite often, homelessness results from a series of unfortunate circumstances, such as being laid off, having health issues or accumulating debt.

While there are cases of homelessness caused by drug addiction, mental illness or criminal behavior, they don’t justify treating those individuals as lesser than or stereotyping all homeless people as such.

Not only do homeless people face harsh conditions and struggle to live, they face disgust from passersby as well as increasing violence on the streets.

While “the federal government has set a series of goals of ending homelessness for veterans by 2015, chronic homelessness by 2017 and homelessness for families with children and youth by 2020,” this task has proven difficult, according to The Atlantic.

It is easy to forget or become accustomed to the number of homeless individuals living throughout the U.S. It is important to keep in mind, however, that becoming homeless can happen to anyone at any time; remaining compassionate and understanding toward this group of people is essential.

While there are certain issues today that people feel powerless to change, homelessness should not be one of them. Along with advocating for legislation to help protect homeless individuals, our generation can volunteer at shelters and donate food and items we do not need. Beyond these contributions, people could even just offer a smile or a few words in passing.

In a time when hardship is plentiful, it is imperative to not tolerate injustices that have been around for years. 

Close to 600,000 people in our nation do not have a place to sleep at night. While the government has tried to help them, their daily lives remain a struggle.

Seeing homeless individuals in New York City or other cities is extremely common; however, we must not accept that this is okay.

“Change is only possible when you are uncomfortable,” columnist Ami Dudley wrote for Georgia State University’s student newspaper, The Signal. “We’ve got to start feeling uncomfortable about the presence of homelessness in our front yard,” 

This argument could not be truer, as it seems our generation has grown up understanding homelessness as a fact of life. Such an attitude must change and homelessness must be eliminated through our efforts. 

Desensitization toward homelessness as well as the negative stigma surrounding homeless individuals seems to play a significant role in preventing this national issue from being resolved.