Poverty, Homelessness Scarcely Register on Presidential Candidates Agenda: Homeless Don’t Have Much Hope for Change

By Jeremy Reynalds
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.

whiet house Will next occupant make a difference 9.22.15While the 2016 presidential race for the White House has generated much more media attention than usual, all that air time hasn’t been focused on homelessness and hunger.

With the possible exception of Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders,  the issue isn’t getting much attention at all.

In fact, an article by Matt Surrusco in The National Memo  dubbed it “The Urgent National Crisis That Presidential Candidates Aren’t Talking About.”

Quoted in the piece, Shahera Hyatt, director of the California Homeless Youth Project, told The National Memo, “A few candidates have talked about the distribution of wealth and the need to grow the middle class, but homelessness is as invisible in these discussions as it is visible on the streets.”

However, some Republicans say the issue of poverty deserves attention.

Perhaps things will change when South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan host a forum for the slate of Republican presidential contenders to talk about poverty in Scott’s home state Jan. 9 2016.

A foundation launched by deceased 1996 Republican vice presidential nominee, Jack Kemp, will host the event.

But that’s a little way down the road, and quite honestly, does it matter for the homeless who ends up in the White House? Will homelessness and hunger remain the same, whoever is elected?

I had our staff at Joy Junction pose that question to a few of our shelter guests. Here are some of their responses. Realistic or cynical? You decide.

One woman said she doesn’t think whoever becomes president will mean a whole lot for the homeless and hungry.

She said, “People who are well off in society do not have compassion for those who are less fortunate. People in the country have forgotten to show the love and compassion that Jesus showed when he was on earth. We have forgotten to love each other. Things will only change when Christ comes.”

Another woman agreed, adding that the homeless need more programs to help train them for employment.

That individual continued, “We need to make the public more aware of what they can do to help; understand about homeless people’s situations and what our needs are.”

One female guest said, “Only we (the people) ourselves can change what goes on. Homelessness and hunger will never change. It will always happen and will always be there.”

Another woman contended that presidents fail to consider homelessness and hunger in America, preferring to take care of other countries first

That person added, “I feel everyone is scared of homeless and hungry people. They won’t look us in the face and think we are lazy.”

Another woman had an interesting perspective, saying, “Texas doesn’t really care. Everyone is just a number to the shelters to get more government money. Here in New Mexico, they provide services to take care of the problem at hand. So, if Trump is elected, we are screwed.”

One woman said a Democratic president will help better alleviate the plight of the homeless, while someone else said she thinks that local communities can do much more than the president.

One guy said, “A president can’t stop homelessness because the government doesn’t care too much about this situation. Only God and his creation and his purpose can change all. I hope that I’m wrong. I wish that the next president will do something about homelessness. I’m thankful for Joy Junction.”

One woman said that regardless of who ends up as president, homelessness and hunger “will persist in North America for some time. I also think it is a national shame … ”

Several people echoed the comment that, “Nothing will change in this world till Jesus Christ comes to reign.”

This perspective was perhaps the most … well … memorable. “Nothing is going to change because of who is president. That is unless the president becomes homeless or hungry, then maybe yes.”

Perhaps it’s not surprising that there’s an obvious disconnect between presidential politics and the life of a homeless or hungry man or woman in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When you’re living on the streets, at a mission or your utilities are about to get turned off, it’s hard to make a connection between how what goes on in Washington D.C. can make a difference in your routine daily grind.

What’s perhaps sadder and more surprising is the disconnect and lack of empathy for the homeless by some community members – both here and nationwide.

I sympathize with business owners and neighborhoods that don’t want the homeless “hanging around” in their neighborhood. I get it. The emotional, mental and physical issues that often plague members of the homeless community don’t usually make them the best neighbors.

But kicking the homeless (problem) down the road doesn’t solve the issue. It just means someone else has to deal with the issue, and quite honestly I believe we as private citizens can do a better job than the government. We also have a community responsibility to do so.

As Pope Francis said recently at St Patrick’s Catholic Church. “I want to be very clear. We can’t find any social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever for lack of housing … We know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person. He wanted everyone to experience his companionship, his help and his love. He identified with all those who suffer, who weep, who suffer any kind of injustice. He tells us this clearly, ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’”

You may not agree, but it is hard to ignore. That being said, will you rise to the challenge?

We’d welcome your help at Joy Junction. To get involved, click here to email Joy Junction.