Thoughts On Homelessness
N.B. I have no lived experience with homelessness, so these musings are purely academic.
People seem discouraged when they see homelessness in their local community, and this can lead to municipal governments to try and drive off the homeless. This does nothing for their plight, it only moves them around making them invisible to one section of the population.
So, as long as there is homelessness anywhere, it can be a good thing if there is a visible homeless contingent in your community.
After all, without the tether of a home shelter, a homeless individual is somewhat like our nomadic ancestors and will migrate to the best living conditions.
Freezing to death is a concern for the homeless, especially in Canada. So when I notice more homelessness in my current community than my old one, I think about how it's statistically milder here.
If a community has access to cheaper food, that makes it more attractive to everyone. There are communities known as 'food deserts' where it's hard to get the food that will most nourish you, and if the stores are all too expensive - it won't be attractive to the homeless, but it's not really good economically for anyone.
Hygiene is health. Having free access to water to wash-up or drink can be handy for anyone though - if you've ever had a small child that's had a bathroom accident, running water and the ability to clean up is never close enough.
This is obviously a negative, and a reason why a community would not be homeless friendly. Feeding addictions means committing crimes like petty theft or worse. Having drug dealers in the local community means that it will draw addicts. The only thing I can say is that addicts come from all walks of life, and if your community can provide treatment or harm reduction, it can help the entire local population.
In a similar vein, accessible mental health services can benefit all segments of the population, and might even help reduce homelesness.
Do they have a space to pitch a tent or makeshift shelter. Better yet, are there warming centres and beds within homeless shelters locally? Shelters are not always used to their best capacity, and the reasons for this can range from security to fear (possibly based out of mental illness). I know having a green space occupied by shopping carts and makeshift shelters is a downer, but if your community has gren spaces in abundance, it's good for the environment, for kids and for everyone. Conversely, where every blade of grass is considered some kind of controlled private property is not a place I want to live.
7. Law Enforcement
I've seen police evict homeless encampments from parks in the media - it's not pretty to see the use of force against society's most vulnerable. So a community that has a big police presence is probably not an attractive one to the homeless. Is it attractive to the rest of us though? We all want to feel safe, and that we'd be protected from crimes or emergencies, but somehow I doubt it would feel comfortable to see a cruiser everywhere I looked. This is obviously a tricky thing to consider, but it needs to be included as a factor.
What are the people like? Are they tolerant, charitable? Or hostile and fearful? That atmosphere can affect the homeless and housed alike.
If you grew up speaking a different language or practicing different cultural traditions than the ones that are the norm in the local community, what are your chances of accessing services? Similar to point #8, a community that is tolerant of differences is good for the homeless, and just about anyone.
From the point of view of the nomadic, is the community easy to get to? Easy to leave? If so, it probably means good public transportation and infrastructure.