Not only in Boise, Idaho, but around the world, homelessness is a problem. “On any given night in 2020, 2,315 Idahoans were homeless,” according to a report released by the US Department of Housing. When the coronavirus was at its highest, the number of homeless people in Eastern Idaho soared. Hospitals were overburdened, and people experiencing homeless were not seen as the most important people to care for, which did not bode well for them.
It is important to resist the dismissive attitude toward people who are homeless in Boise; instead of passing judgement, it is important that we find ways to recognize their humanity and acknowledge their immediate and long term challenges. The leading causes of homelessness in the United States are poverty, unemployment, job loss, emergencies or personal crises, lack of adequate housing, physical and mental health, family issues, natural disasters, identity and demographics, and a lack of support network. All of these factors must be considered before making broad generalizations about homeless people and passing judgement on them for their present situation, because we have no way of knowing why they are experiencing homeless. Making such decisions is irrational and unreasonable.
Rather than casting judgement on people who are homeless because of circumstances outside of their control, the Boise community should be there to help and support those who are in need. Whether we are homeless or not, we can all accept that we need a little help now and then. Those in a position to help in any way should recognize their ability to make a significant difference in the lives of others and to change the world for the better. It’s our moral responsibility to help disadvantaged members of our community. We must assist and encourage all members of our community in every way we can in order to better their lives and provide them with a brighter future.
My parents were able to educate me about the seriousness of the problem at a young age because not everyone is aware of it. They instilled in me the importance of giving back to the less fortunate and homeless community because they, too, have needed assistance at some point in their lives and understand the value of helping others. Instilling knowledge of how to be compassionate and caring for all people, regardless of situation, at such a young age has taught me the importance of not judging homeless people and less fortunate in Boise, but rather of participating in even the smallest of ways to make a difference and help those in need.
During my sophomore year of college, I became involved with Interfaith Sanctuary, a shelter in downtown Boise. I met and connected with homeless people who stay in these shelters, and I witnessed the hardships and struggles they and their families faced. All were so kind and appreciative of the smallest experiences together. My time at this shelter piqued my interest in working with homeless communities, leading to an internship with The Astegos Non-Profit Foundation, a shelter on West Overland. Due to my time and experiences with the Astegos Non-Profit Foundation, I was able to gain a better understanding of the statistics and problems that our city faces when it comes to homelessness. Not all was negative though. When I worked alongside the foundation's CEO, I saw people who work tirelessly to try to help raise funds to expand and continue constructing shelters to serve more people.
I had the pleasure of speaking with a volunteer at Astegos who spoke about her experience learning about and assisting the homeless. She says, “I feel that I have changed because of the involvement of this kind of work with the homeless. It has made me appreciate all that I have in my life, but it has also made me appreciate that these people have so much love to give, and that they appreciate all the hard work that we do to help them and their families who are struggling.”
The majority of citizens and municipalities in the Treasure Valley recognize that homelessness is an issue that can be solved. As Walker puts it, “Homelessness is a highly visible and important issue in this day and age. One of the most startling things about homelessness is that it could happen to just about anyone if the right string of events took place at the wrong time. Basically, almost anyone is one or two paychecks away from being homeless themselves. This especially rings true with so much of the world going through financial turmoil right now.” Walker goes on to say that he has had personal challenges with this, but then he offers brilliant ideas and strategies that are quick and easy to implement if people are willing to participate.
Here are Walker's top five recommendations that people can do to help homelessness in Boise: organize a coat drive, distribute lunches around town, volunteer at a family shelter, spare a few dollars, and offer a haircut or shave.
A coat drive will help people survive the harsh winter weather. Lunch distribution will benefit both children and adults, according to Walker, and is "one of the more successful projects done." Volunteering at a family shelter will benefit the children who are staying there because you can be a leader and have a positive impact on their lives while still spending time with them, which children need and deserve. Saving a few dollars to support a homeless person can be as easy as not buying those extra candy bars and assisting them with a low-cost meal; however, this does not imply that you must only give them your money. With those extra bucks, you can still do something else that is just as beneficial. Identifying services that offer a simple shave or haircut or new and gently used clothing may not just be important for self esteem, but may help them find work. Walker's website about a hair stylist offering free haircuts to the homeless, for example, shows how beneficial these simple things can be. In this video, he shows how small acts of kindness and financial help can make a huge difference in the lives of people experiencing homelessness in your neighborhood.
After performing my interview, researching, and watching all of these videos of people going out of their way to help someone less fortunate who is homeless, it is encouraging to see how if everyone donated even a small amount every day to someone in their community, we would be able to help people and make a difference in their lives. We must solve the problem of homelessness regardless of the circumstances. We must dispel the myths of why and how these people ended up in this terrible situation, and we must welcome each other with open arms as a community. We must learn to see that there is something we can do here, and that we have the power to make a difference. My enthusiasm stems from my conviction that if we talk about it, we will solve it. I know that this is not a problem that can be solved in a single night, but if everybody pitched in, the number of homeless people would decrease, and the issue would finally be acknowledged and understood as it should be.