Boilerplate response to ill-informed anti-homeless comments on social media

Arguably the best policy, but every so often one cant avoid it. Feel free to plagiarize or adapt the response below as you encounter anti-homeless comments on social media (and/or in real life).

This particular comment featured the quaint notion that all a homeless Eugenean would have to do to be housed was to get a job, so that is where I began my response.

You are sadly uninformed about the high cost of housing in Eugene today (and it is even higher in many places in the US). A huge percentage of the 2,100+ unhoused people in Eugene/Springfield have a job; 40% of families coming to ShelterCare have at least one employed member. I know employed people who are sleeping in cars in our neighborhood because they cant get a place to live in Eugene — they are struggling to save up first + last months rent + a deposit + application fees on a minimum-wage salary. There are 80 families in the city-sanctioned Overnight Car Camping program overseen by St. Vincent de Paul, and 70 more on the waiting list. The waiting lists for subsidized housing are all closed. 

For those wanting to learn more, try the Eugene Housing Literacy Test: Then tune in to groups like Springfield/Eugene MicroDwellers and Better Housing Together, which are working for the change that is essential to reduce the number of our neighbors who are unhoused — smaller and more affordable housing in abundant supply. Eugenes neighborhoods have resisted this for years, and it needs to stop. The consequences of this selfish, misguided prejudice have been disastrous and literally fatal for some.

Forty-four percent of area residents struggle to meet their basic needs — they live in poverty or have low-paying jobs and few assets, as detailed in the United Ways excellent ALICE report: . Most Americans are one medical emergency or other catastrophe away from being homeless. We need to stop demonizing the unhoused as some kind of strange other breed of people, because they are us. Beyond that, a shocking number of them are elders or children. Eight percent of the children in the Bethel School District are homeless, and thirty-five percent of those staying at the Eugene Mission are 50 or older.

I also recommend taking the free public tours offered by Community Supported Shelters, St. Vincent de Paul, Opportunity Village Eugene, and the Eugene Mission to get an accurate picture of homelessness in Eugene today.

Our mayor and City Councilors would be encouraging this and doing it publicly themselves, if they wanted to provide real leadership.

If you cant handle that much reality, watch a few videos in the Invisible People channel on YouTube, which interviews unhoused people across America and allows them to tell their stories. Then count your blessings, appreciate your privilege, and consider what you might do to be part of the solution.

Published by Sherri Schultz

Writer & change-maker exploring micro-dwelling in Eugene, Oregon. Founder of Springfield/Eugene MicroDwellers: .

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