When "Just Get A Job" Is Not Enough
“Can’t you just get a job?” ‘Yes, I have two. It’s still not enough” is a response that I would imagine from a working adult trying their hardest to make ends meet while living in a temporary emergency shelter. One common stigma impacting homelessness is that a homeless person is simply not trying. But what does trying look like and what happens when trying is not enough? According to The National Low Income Housing Coalition Out of Reach Report, a South Carolina worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would need to work 2.2 jobs in order to afford a two bed room apartment at fair market rent rate without spending more than the suggested 30% of their income on housing. This feat can be possible but what happens when this same worker has an eviction and is denied the ability to rent? What happens when this same worker has a nonviolent crime on their background and is denied employment needed to afford a stable living? What happens when this same worker has a mental health disorder or a physical disability that makes it difficult to work or live independently? Are they not trying hard enough? Addressing homelessness is more than getting a job and in some instances more than having a place to call home. Addressing homelessness also calls for social inclusion and social connectedness where homelessness is destigmatized. The HUD Exchange 2016 Annual Homelessness Assessment reports 549,928 people experienced homelessness in the United States where the majority 68% lived in emergency shelters, transitional housing or safe havens and the remaining 32% lived in unsheltered locations. Unfortunately, biases against homeless citizens create additional adverse experiences as the act of stigmatization leads to stereotyping and unjust generalizations that contribute to a vicious cycle. Instead of what they should do, what can we do? Educational intervention is key. Opening perspectives and discussion about people who are homeless is vital. We can all take part in encouraging someone who has fallen on hard times with understanding. One way to achieve this is through educating others and equipping the community for change.