The homelessness issue has been a source of controversy at the local, state and national levels for some time now. There has been some limited progress, but this problem has certainly not been resolved humanely. Sometimes lost in the debate about this issue is that the homeless are fellow human beings, including families with children, and most of them really don’t want to be without shelter.
Many of these people were and are hard-working people who suffered some event, which could be due to the predatory financial crisis 10 years ago, a health crisis, the loss of a good-paying job, an accident, a severe weather-related event, the opioid crisis or other drug addiction, etc. A disproportionately large number are military veterans who suffer from PTSD or other injuries that prevent them from maintaining employment. Many of us could also become homeless if we were faced with something that disrupted our income source.
Despite the effort of lots of smart and compassionate people, the conditions faced by the homeless in the U.S. are, in general, a disgrace. I had the good fortune to have lived in Western Europe for two years in the 1980s and saw very few homeless people there. Most of these nations had good safety-net programs that were a right. Unlike the U.S., self-described as the world’s greatest nation, these Western European nations valued and provided human rights including, for example, the rights to health care, housing and food, rights that don’t exist here.
Much of the lack of progress regarding homelessness in the U.S. is due to a shortage of public funds to deal adequately with the issue. Unfortunately, we accept this shortage instead of questioning why it exists.
An examination of the U.S. budget reveals that over 60 percent of discretionary spending goes to funding the military, including expensive weapons that help fuel an arms race. Other nations without an empire spend far less on their militaries. For example, our military budget is greater than the combined total of the seven nations with the next largest military budgets. Note that much of this money is not spent on our national security but corporate welfare. The military, including our naval fleets and aircraft and more than 800 military bases around the world, is used, among other things, to protect overseas investments of banks and other transnational corporations. More corporate welfare goes to weapons manufacturers to purchase weapons that often don’t work, are grossly over budget and/or are unnecessary.
Think what we could do by shifting most of this appalling corporate welfare to fully protect human rights, including the right to shelter and to a clean, safe and healthy environment.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.