The “Solution” to Homelessness

According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the brain immediately determines how trustworthy a face is before it’s fully perceived, which supports the fact that we make quick judgments about people. It’s not just a human thing; it’s an instinct thing. Are you safe? Will you put me in danger? These are valid questions that our brain is continually assessing. Our instinct is to stay alive, pain-free, and safe. That’s a good thing.
The problem is we assess social standing and human worth almost as quickly. The latest studies say that when you come across someone you don’t know, by the time you count to seven, you have decided on that individual’s place in your social circle. Your unconscious brain bases that decision on the person’s face, voice, body language, and a million other factors — each individual is then labeled with a temporary standing in our personal social order.
Individuals without a permanent home are no different. As we encounter or discuss these people, we base our assessments of their worth on the same impersonal factors. People without a place to call home don’t wear a sign around their neck explaining their situation (escaping abuse, loss of income, mental illness, substance abuse), so we just label them all “homeless.”
How do we come up with a “solution” to a problem with as many variables as there are individuals? How do we decide who is worthy of assistance and who isn’t?
The truth is, we can’t. One solution doesn’t fit all.There is an old parable you’ve probably heard, and it goes like this;
One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked, he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.
Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir.”
The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”
The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water, and, turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”We may not be able to create a solution that finds a home for everyone, but we can provide stepping stones, a leg up, and avenues of relief for those struggling. We may not have a solution to the problem of homelessness, but we can make a difference to that one.

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