Audio interview with Father Monk
Phoenix, Arizona – Homelessness is a major social issue in the United States. It effects all races, ages, people with a mental disability, substance abusers, and others. However, many statistics have determined that the number of homeless since 2007, when HUD began collecting data, has decreased over the years though certain groups have increased. Yet, despite a downward trend that HUD insists on there also seems to be an upward tick among some groups. In 2018, it was concluded that homelessness increased by 0.3 percent. The homelessness of Veterans, the chronically mentally ill, and youth seemed to increase or hold steady.
Homeless Haven in Phoenix, Arizona declined to comment on the homeless situation and also stated they aren’t really a shelter but a house for those referred for mental illness. When asked if many of their clients were previously homeless, the answer was yes. The interview ended there.
Father Nathan Monk was also asked for an interview and he agreed. He runs a non-profit shelter in Florida. His goal is to get people into housing. Last year, 49 people “remained on-site and stayed for the residency program…about 50% are no longer homeless and…no longer living on the streets.” Father Monk stressed that most people do not choose to be homeless. He also stated that many shelters won’t take many homeless due to not passing a breathalyzer, a drug test, not having an ID (something easily lost on the streets), or not passing a background check. This is why many homeless are on the street. The shelters have turned them away. Father Monk said the “root cause of homelessness is not having a home.” By not helping the homeless we are actually spending more as a society than helping the homeless get a home. The focus should be preventative and not triage.
Probably the main problem for homelessness is that housing in many cities is expensive. This is why California and New York have the highest rates of homelessness. Affordable house is critical to reducing the homeless rate. Free medical care is also important as those that are mentally ill or have a substance abuse problem often can’t get needed help.
A few homeless people in Phoenix, Arizona near a freeway overpass were sought out. They were very guarded and refused to talk and some walked away. One older man stayed. He was wearing a strained and ripped yellow t-shirt. He was asked for an interview and declined. He was asked for a picture and declined. He was asked why he wasn’t in a shelter and he said, “beer.” He was asked for a name and said nothing. He went back to holding his sign. The homeless approached were very guarded and it is not clear what they were afraid of other than perhaps fear of exploitation or the fact that their problem of being homeless would not be solved by talking to a third party with no access to resources.
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Father Monk can be contacted via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/fathernathan/
Story by Risa Peris
Featured Image courtesy of Pixabay.