In my youth I experienced homelessness, usually by my own choosing, in Alaska, California and Washington. While I am somewhat adept at living off the land and feel quite at home in a tent or lean to I had the opportunity to experience the plight of others that were not as skilled at living off the land’s bounty.
In this greatest of nations we seem to be able to find billions to bail out banks and Wall Street brokers, but when it comes to homelessness we tend to put more money into bulldozing homeless camps than we do in providing safe and clean shelter for the displaced.
I worked with a homeless Veterans organization in the early 1990’s until the founder died, and then a few years ago I joined with a number of others in creating the Wasilla Homeless Committee Inc., WHC works to get people off the streets and into jobs, and has had over 200 success stories in the few short years it has been in operation.
Homelessness will continue to be a problem in Alaska, be it from job loss, financial distress, drugs or a number of other factors, and while not all that are homeless can be helped, (some don’t even want to be helped) those that can be should have access to the vast resources that our combined community services provide.
I would like to see a permanent tiny house community established for transitional living and another Veterans-only tiny home community to address Veterans homelessness. One of the biggest issues facing such projects is the “Not In My Back Yard” problem. Most people equate homelessness with drug abuse, and while it is certainly a factor, it is only the tip of a very big iceberg. There are many that do not have substance abuse issues, entire families can be found living out of their cars after missing a couple of rent payments, and many minimum wage workers you see every day are couch surfing or living in tents, because the cost of an actual house or apartment is just beyond their ability to budget on minimum wage. There are solutions, but it will take individuals willing to step up and coordinate community resources to make those solutions work.