By Needa Bee
Who is the “homeless demographic” and what stereotypes are attributed to this demographic? Who is currently unhoused and or experiencing homelessness?
In the United States, we are living off an outdated stereotype that all homeless folks are mentally ill, drug addicts, or deserve to be homeless. The first two generalizations come from the 1980s when the war on drugs hit Black communities with the crack epidemic and when the mental health facilities that housed folks who could not take care of themselves were closed down. Both actions of the Ronald Regan administration and the impacts are still with us. The third stereotype stems from an imbedded belief in the U.S. society that criminalizes and neglects the poor, the people who do not “contribute” to our culture of capitalism, the victims of sick society that values money over life.
In the milinium there has been a surge of homelessness that not only superseeds the homeless crisis of the 1980s, or the massive wave of homelessness that hit this country during the great depression, but for those who come from nations who have experienced colonization, this wave of homelessness is very similar to the homelessness Native Americans experienced at the hands of colonizers. This wave of homelessness is grounded in the removal and displacement of existing communitites for the development of new settlements aka gentrification, the great, great, great grandchild of colonization.
While folks struggling with mental health issues including addiction continue to make up a population of the unhoused demographic (and still have zero resources to provide them with housing and support), a new demographic is emerging – victims of an economic and social disaster called gentrification. And like the populations who found themselves unhoused in the 80s and before, this new population does not have the resources or support available to rehouse them.
Across the country you will find teachers, cooks, artists, construction workers, mechanics, non-profit employees, retired union workers, folks with chronic illnesses, families who lost a parent or grandparent living in tents, vehicles, hotels, or couch surfing because they can no longer afford to house themselves in the cities they were born, raised, go to school and work in. Thru illegal evictions, predatory loans that led to forclosure of family homes, zero rent control laws – working class families and former workers with retirement no longer can afford to live in the urban centers. Mayors in almost every major city in the U.S. have adopted gentrification as the only model of development they are committed to. Turning public housing into a thing of the past, skyrocketting the price of affordable housing, and driving up market rate housing into the relam of millionaires only club. The offspring of this profit driven housing agenda? Homelessness like we have never seen before.