Governor fails to help homeless population, individual action may be necessary


Marcelo Plata

The homeless population has grown from 855,215 to 964,254 from 2013 to 2018 according to the U.S Census Bureau. That's a 12.4 percent increase.

Last Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter to the Mayor of Austin Steve Adler addressing the city’s dialing back on laws targeting homeless people, and while the governor’s intentions might be good, they are not a good solution for Austin’s homeless situation. 

In the last year, Austin has seen a rise in the homeless population by five percent, but sending in state troopers is not the solution to our problem and will only create more problems. In the United States, around 45 percent of the homeless population has a mental illness, and combining it with the fact that twenty-five percent of deaths from “police shootings represent people with mental illness,” Abbott’s plan to send state troopers to areas with a high population of homelessness is not a good idea. Abbott’s heart might be in the right place, but homelessness is a problem that Austin can not fight alone. The governor is trying to help the city of Austin, but I think there are some better ways to help our community. 

The state could support programs like Community First! Village. This is a “planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness,” and to top it off, it has a retention rate of eighty-five percent. Community First! Village is a great developmental program. It helps create a sense of community within the homeless population, and it provides them with medical attention, including mental health resources. 

To help single mothers, the state could provide more resources to programs like the Jeremiah Program. The Jeremiah Program is a non-profit that provides help for single mothers and sets them on the path to getting a college degree or certification. This program also provides them with safe and affordable housing, childcare, and a supportive community. 

If the governor is worried that the homeless population needs to get up and work, there are foundations like The Other Ones Foundation. This foundation provides work for homeless people and gives them an opportunity to provide services to the community. The Other Ones Foundation provides “an alternative employment program, where individuals are offered the opportunity to work in service of the community as an alternative to panhandling,” and it provides them with support and the ability to be engaging with the community. This program also allows members of the homeless population to check in with their case manager, enjoy a break, and take a shower.

There is absolutely no reason not to help these programs, but I would understand if the state government can’t spare the resources and are planning on spending them combating something bigger and more global like climate change. If that is the case, I invite everyone to go out and engage with this marginalized community. Provide a lunch for them. But remember to wrap the sandwiches in paper towels instead of putting them in a plastic bag. The plastic bag is only going to pollute and create more of that trash that you don’t like to see in our public streets. Instead of giving them regular water bottles, think of freezing them first. In those terrible summer heat, a frozen water bottle can be a good way to combat the heat. Remember to always be safe and exit any situation you do not feel safe in, but do learn to distinguish between feeling uncomfortable and being in danger. If you feel uncomfortable… GOOD! You should feel uncomfortable. Homelessness is a problem we need to address, and being active in our community, helping programs like the ones mentioned, and engaging with the homeless population is the first step to helping those in need.