By Michelle Moreno Lira
Heavy rain and cold weather are set to hit NorCal residents this Tuesday amid concern for the homeless’ well-being.
There is a growing population of over 8,000 homeless individuals in San Francisco this year alone. The living conditions that homeless people are facing are far more concerning as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise.
It’s disheartening that local government officials are not doing enough to place these people in shelters or provide them with materials to stay warm for the cold weather ahead. The homeless have to worry more about being exposed to the virus on top of being homeless and living on the streets.
Local officials are responsible for overseeing the communities they serve, yet the most concerning problems are not being taken care of, and homeless individuals see the worst of it. No funding or directions were given to homeless people in NorCal during the lockdowns amid the virus epidemic.
Homeless people weren’t told what places offered shelters during the virus, such as free hotel rooms or open spaces like classroom auditoriums. Shelters are beginning to turn away individuals to remain socially distant. Those on the streets are forced to look for their own resources, but it only becomes more difficult when the resources are growing scarce.
Is homelessness a social problem or not? Due to recent events with the spread of the coronavirus and the economic decline of the country, that question can only be answered with a resounding yes.
The lack of financial resources, affordable housing and insufficient government control, to say the least, has led to an increase in the homeless population. Homelessness has affected even those who had stable incomes before the pandemic; some believed they’d never end up on the streets, but no one could’ve imagined it’d affect those least vulnerable.
The government has allowed it to worsen instead of implementing policies that would lower the number of people in the streets.
Policies such as the Rent Control Act can prevent landlords from raising rent prices or evicting tenants for implausible reasons. Providing more temporary housing units for homeless individuals would encourage them to get back on their feet and give them the resources to transition into a stable life again.
To tackle this issue, problems like affordable housing or directing more resources towards poverty-stricken communities could reduce the likelihood of becoming homeless.
Weather officials are expecting this to be the biggest storm of the season and a majority of the homeless population in San Francisco remains on the streets.
As someone who’s had to live with very few resources, the winter season becomes lonelier and harder to get by as the holidays get closer. Individuals on the streets witness the holiday season from an outside perspective; they seek warmth but instead are received by excessive winds and hard rainfalls. Streets become flooded, and the coldness creeps over those who are unfortunate enough to experience the holiday cheer out in the streets.
Amid the numbers of COVID-19 cases rising, those who remain homeless are more likely to suffer the virus’s consequences since most shelters have closed to slow down the spread. However, local churches and community organizations are dedicating more funds and resources towards these homeless people than local governments. Becoming homeless isn’t on anyone’s agenda, yet it’s easy to turn to the streets when there are little resources to support those who struggle in the lower-class.
With many people losing work hours and job opportunities, it’s harder to set money aside for basic necessities, such as rent or groceries. Many students depend on school lunches for food during the weekdays, and families now have to deal with increasingly difficult expenses.
Volunteers and community members hand out care-packages and warm meals for individuals who struggle with basic needs.
Little to no resources have been given to Americans since the start of the pandemic, especially since there was only one stimulus package granted to those who qualified. Not to mention price gouging and several overcrowded grocery stores that were left with empty shelves. There was no national plan provided for companies or guidelines to follow to prevent contracting the virus.
It’s hard to believe that homelessness is part of the government’s concerns since they haven’t sent resources to these communities.
It’s commendable that communities continue to offer help when they are suffering as well. There’s a bad pattern in how the government seems to rely on communities to help sort a problem that they created and contribute to.
Loaves & Fishes Family, a nonprofit organization in NorCal, jumped from serving 2,500 meals a day to serving 7,000 a day. Communities took it upon themselves to create “community fridges” where people can donate food for homeless individuals around the community.
Despite community members contributing to local pantries, police officials deemed it a “safety risk” and yet did not offer an alternative for those who benefited from the community fridges.
As the cold weather begins and makes its way towards NorCal, homeless individuals are expected to help themselves. Community members are expected to be the only helping hand as our government watches from the sidelines.
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