Too often in our society, homeless persons are devalued, ignored, and treated with much less respect than they deserve.They become accustomed to people walking by with only a disgusted glance in their direction.This lack of acknowledgment is dehumanizing.
Earlier this week, advocates in Rhode Island gathered to acknowledge and memorialize the lives of over 35 individuals who died homeless in the state in 2011.We commend Beneficent Church in Providence for the service they held and the time they dedicated to honor those our society failed.At the memorial, names were read aloud and thirty-five candles were lit for each person, as well as an extra for those who may have been neglected.It can be very difficult to track homeless deaths and oftentimes they are left without any memorial to mark the lives they led.The service in Rhode Island is an important reminder that, like all human beings, each and every homeless person is valuable and unique.
This memorial comes while cities across the country are enacting criminalization laws that sweep homeless persons out of public view, making it difficult for them to consistently access services from community groups.
These laws, which range from prohibiting loitering, begging, or camping/sleeping in public, have proven to be very costly. Numerous studies show that supportive housing and emergency shelter cost a lot less money than putting homeless persons in jail.But beyond the practical financial considerations, it is important that we provide homeless persons the respect they deserve as individuals and do what we can to improve their situations.
The service in Rhode Island is important, but we must work to prevent unnecessary deaths from ever happening in the first place.More must be done to acknowledge homeless persons in our society and provide them with the services they require.
- Megan Huber, Development & Communications Intern