Keven Graves’ recent Opinion column about homelessness invites empathy, but it fails to look deeply enough to reflect responsibly on a very complex, tragic issue. Across the nation, it is estimated that between 2.5 million and 3.5 million people are sleeping in shelters, temporary housing and in the outdoors. 1.2 million are school children.
Families: 37.4 percent of the total. Source: National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, 2018 Fact Sheet
Contrary to your allusion to criminals, people with mental illness and addiction, the primary causes, in order, are income disparity combined with shrinking affordable housing; extremely poor families struggling to afford food, medicines, transportation and childcare; renters facing eviction due to a prior foreclosure, stemming from the 2008 bank frauds; and women escaping domestic violence
Other studies cited in the same report cited essentially parallel causes. The fact sheet is available at http://bit.ly/2R5HBSv
By and large, these are not addicted mentally ill criminals. The homeless on Whidbey and beyond want to work, to be self-sufficient, to raise their kids and contribute to the community. The primary barriers are economic, not character flaws. They are veterans, families, survivors of abuse. They are our neighbors.
In a community where tradesmen are increasingly scarce as compassion, it makes sense that increasing scholarships for vocational training, support around basic life skills and access to affordable health care services would make a huge difference. Perhaps people would be less likely to turn to crime in desperate acts to feed their children. Perhaps escaping into addiction would be less necessary. Perhaps we could better support people with mental illness.
Perhaps newspaper publishers would start with a little research and write fewer anecdotes. We would all be better served.