Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Can We Eliminate Homelessness?

Some people think so! In fact, Utah’s State Homeless Coordinating Committee hopes to eliminate homelessness entirely in their state by 2015.  Over the past eight years, they have reduced rates of homelessness by 78%.  How could one state make so much progress in the last decade on one of the most prevalent issues in America?  The answer seems simple: they gave people homes.

First, let's zoom out and look at homelessness from a wider perspective.  It's an issue plagued by stigma, and generally, that stigma is unwarranted.  So often, the homeless are portrayed as the low lifes, the leeches of society.  That stigmatized image has a very real effect on the way America (as individuals and in government) addresses homelessness.  States like South Carolina and Florida has implemented laws that were targeted at homeless people to result in their arrest.  North Carolina and the very nearby city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, made it illegal to feed people without homes (even charitable organizations were banned from donating food on the streets, though many disobeyed that law).  Hawaii state representative Tom Bower took matters into his own hands by rousing people sleeping on the street and smashing their shopping carts with a sledgehammer.  Does our government really think this is an effective way to address homelessness?  What did these people do to deserve this?

In reality, some homeless people were struck by economic crisis in the worst way, a tragedy that could happen to anyone.  Many more homeless youth are queer people who were rejected from their homes by their families.  Along similar lines, poor mental health is a widespread problem among the homeless, usually because their families are unwilling or unable to provide long-term care.  Another large portion of the homeless population is represented by our own veterans.  Following their service in the American military, many people are left without established plans back home.  It doesn't take much in the way of unfortunate circumstances to push our veterans into homelessness.  So the reality of homelessness is a much more human issue than the one that is painted by stigma and the media.

Despite the ineffective measures taken by some officials, it turns out that government funding toward ending homelessness has been at its highest since 2008.  The most successful program was implemented in Utah in 2005.  Following some in-depth research, it was discovered that the cost of emergency room and jail stays were over $16,000 per person!  Take that number and compare it to the cost of providing each homeless person with a place to stay and a social worker--$11,000.  This isn't just throwing money at the problem, and in the long-term, it isn't just giving away free housing for life either.  By providing a home, one of the primary life concerns and sources of major stress is removed from the mind.  By providing a social worker, people are able to learn skills and be connected with resources that will result in employment, and eventually, financial and life stability.  The idea is that the system encourages and creates active and self-sufficient citizens over time.  The hard part--getting started--is what many homeless people find impossible, and exactly what Utah is addressing.  For a more detailed explanation of the theory behind the program, and the ways it addresses prevention as well as short- and long-term solutions, visit the Housing Works website.

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