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Social Problems: Homelessness in the United States

Bill is a freelance writer. Bill is an author. Bill is a human. What "expertise" he may have has been gained from experience.

Homelessness is a major problem in the US.

Homelessness is a major problem in the US.

Do You See Them?

Do you see them? Can you see them? Will you see them?

They are seemingly everywhere and yet they are the invisible people. They have become so common as to become a part of the landscape, of no more importance than the wall of a building they lean against, or the freeway overpass that serves as their bedroom ceiling.

They can certainly see you, sidestepping around them as you head off for a shopping excursion, or driving by them as they stand on a street corner with sign in hand. They are the unwashed, the disheveled, the forgotten people of the United States, where all men are created equal but some just aren’t too lucky, right?

Do you see them? Can you see them? Will you see them?

They span the entire spectrum of the population; white, black, Indian and Hispanic; men, women, and children. No race or creed is exempt; homelessness is an equal opportunity social issue, and it is alive and well in every major city in the United States.

Do you see them? Can you see them? Will you see them?

The numbers are staggering, especially considering this is considered the richest and most powerful nation on Earth.

The unseen in America

The unseen in America

The Cold, Hard Numbers

  • In a given year, as many as 3.5 million people are homeless in the United States, or approximately 1% of the entire population.
  • During any given week, as many as 842,000 people are homeless. The numbers will never be accurate due to the difficulty of finding all the homeless, a shifting population that is never in one place long enough to count.
  • The fastest growing segment of the homeless population are families with children, which make up for 23% of the homeless population. 51.3% are single males, 24.7% are single females, and 5% are minors unaccompanied by adults. 39% of the total homeless population are children under the age of 18.
  • 49% are African American, 35% Caucasian, 13% Hispanic, 2% Native American, and 1% are Asian.
  • 22% of the homeless have serious mental illnesses; 30% have substance abuse issues; 46% have chronic health problems, and 58% have trouble finding enough food to eat.
  • 38% have less than a high school diploma, 34% have a high school diploma, and 28% have more than a high school diploma.
  • As many as 43% are veterans of the Armed Forces!

Causes of Homelessness

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the leading causes of homelessness are as follows:

  • The change in the mental health systems since the 1950s, a shift towards “community-based” treatment of mentally ill rather than long-term commitment to institution.
  • Redevelopment and gentrification of neighborhoods in cities, demolishing low-income neighborhoods.
  • The economic crises of the 1970s and the current economic recession
  • The failure of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide effective mental health care for veterans.
  • Natural disasters.
  • Women and children who flee domestic violence.
  • Foreclosure of homes.
  • Evictions from apartments.
  • Difficulty of released prisoners to find gainful employment.

Do you see them? Can you see them? Will you see them?

Do you see them?

Do you see them?

Reflections From Olympia, Washington

Olympia is the capitol city of the State of Washington, with approximately 47,000 citizens. It sits on the Interstate 5 corridor, 20 miles south of a major army/air force combined base, one hour south of Seattle and 90 minutes north of Portland, Oregon.

Government is obviously the number one employer in this city, and in many ways Olympia is just your average American city. It has an interesting mix of people, two universities, average unemployment figures, and decent public schools. The surrounding area is filled with natural beauty with majestic mountains rising to the east and northwest, lakes and rivers aplenty, and an inland sea brushing up against Olympia’s shoreline.

It is practically impossible not to see the homeless in Olympia. At every major intersection they are there, holding their signs, asking for food or money. Walk the streets of downtown and you will definitely see them, sleeping on the sidewalks, walking the alleyways, finding shelter in the city library, and occasionally asking for handouts. Their tents can be found in vacant lots or nearby forests; their shopping carts, filled with all their earthly possessions, sit in parking lots or behind stores.

For the most part they are polite and extremely gracious when given food or spare change; they have become a permanent part of the social landscape of Olympia, and if one word could describe the attitude of Olympia’s citizens towards the homeless, that word would be tolerated.

Several years ago I taught at a school down in Beaverton, Oregon, a suburb of Portland. When I first moved to Beaverton, I was confused at first; I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was missing. It took me several weeks to realize that there were no homeless there. I finally inquired about it and I was told that Beaverton in effect “zoned out” the homeless with a zero tolerance decree by the city officials. It turned out that the homeless were considered “bad for business” and presented a negative image for Beaverton. Heaven forbid...bad for business!

Zoned out human beings? Zero tolerance of homelessness and suffering?

Do you see them? Can you see them? Will you see them?

An Open Letter to Mike

The other night a homeless man (we will call him Mike) died on the streets of Olympia. He was found under some newspapers on a park bench and had died during the night when the September temperatures had dropped to an unseasonable 36 degrees. Perhaps he died of exposure; perhaps malnutrition, or AIDS, or any of a dozen other possible causes. Most surely he died alone, without family, without any means of contacting family if they do exist. His shopping cart was next to the bench, and all of his worldly possessions, the sum total of his life, were in that cart...a couple blankets...a thin cotton sweater...a roll of duct tape and his sign...”Homeless, need food or change…can you help me?”

I find myself needing to write a letter to Mike; nobody saw him while he lived; maybe this letter will help you all see him now.

Dear Mike,

I’m sorry! I still find it hard to believe that deaths like yours happen in the richest nation on Earth. I still find it hard to believe that a veteran who served his country could die in such a fashion. I still find it hard to believe that there are people among us who are neither seen nor heard. It would be inconceivable to me if I did not witness it with my eyes daily.

I’m sorry your country was not there for you the way you were there for your country. I’m sorry that the promises given to every citizen did not apply to you. I’m sorry that trade agreements and foreign aid were more important than your well-being.

I’m sorry that by ignoring you we all share in the blame for your death. “There but for the grace of God...” Well, here I am, healthy, happy, and loved, whether it be because of God or some random roll of the cosmic dice. I live, you die, and life goes on, right?

Maybe I’ve been a naïve fool, Mike, but I believed those words about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Hell, Mike, you fought in the army defending those words. So what went wrong? How does this happen? You are dead my friend, but I need answers

Rest in peace now, Mike! I, for one, will not forget you!

Bill Holland

How Does This Happen?

I struggle with that question daily! I want to know how this happens in the United States of America. I want to know how people become invisible to the rest of us. I want to know how people are asked to serve their country but the country is not required to serve the people. I want to know why the playing field isn’t level for everyone.

I want to know how sex slavery happens in this country. I want to know how abuse happens in this country. I want to know how poverty and homelessness happen in this country.

Evidently we cannot count on the government taking care of its citizens. Evidently we cannot count on the corporations feeling any civic responsibility to those who line their pockets with cash. I can, however, count on myself, and others like me, who have compassion and empathy for those who suffer.

And so that’s where it starts...with me! In all honesty, I wish it did not start with me. I would love it if the government would handle all of this so I could blithely go about my day not thinking about social problems. Unfortunately, that’s how this whole mess started in the first place. 300 million people blithely going about their day, paying little or no attention to the suffering and injustice all around them, and trusting that the government would handle the situation.

The funny thing is that the government is blithely going about the business of big business and hoping that we will handle the problem on a local level.

And so it starts with me!

Do you see them? Can you see them? Will you see them?

I was one of them at one time, back in 1989. Was I worth caring about? Was I worth seeing? Was I worth saving?

One Success Story

Was I worth saving?

Was I worth saving?

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2012 Bill Holland


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 21, 2018:

Margot, it was my pleasure.Thank you for your kind words. The struggle will continue unless we all pitch in to help.

Margot on April 20, 2018:

Mr Holland,

I just read your article!! I love it. This needs to be proclaimed from the rooftops. How dare we as a society go on to believe we are worth more than the other man or women walking down the street. If we do not help each other then what is the point.

Thank You for your words and story


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 08, 2017:

My pleasure, Alysha! Thank you!

Alysha on December 07, 2017:

Couldn't have said it any better. I have to say the open letter to Mike truly brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for writing this.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 17, 2017:

I love that thought, Cheetos...thank you for sharing your wishes here.

CheetosCauseCancer :( on March 16, 2017:

There are many homeless folks in my town, and one of my wishes for the world is to end homelessness on every land on Earth. I know it sounds like a lofty goal, but I strongly believe it can be achieved if we work hard enough. Have a great day!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 03, 2016:

Again, HkwithaAK, thanks for your opinion. I didn't feel insulted at all, and I do understand where you are coming from.

HkwithaAK on December 02, 2016:

My intention was not to come off as insulting in my last comment but was to make a point. I am all about legit homeless programs for people who have the drive to change their lives but not a system that caters to addicts and that is exactly what we have here in Olympia.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 02, 2016:

Thanks for your opinion, HkwithaAK!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on November 07, 2016:

Hopefully he'll start listening to you, AL!

AL on November 07, 2016:

this is what i tell my dad all the time

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 06, 2015:

Thanks Big E. I might amend that to say "big black male." :)

Big E on September 05, 2015:

The safest thing to be if you are homeless is a black male. Black skin is like a tatoo that says do not F with me.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 30, 2014:

Barbara, what a lovely thing for you to say. We are kindred spirits if you feel strongly for the forgotten people. Thank you for caring so much about the. Good luck with that paper, and thank you for including a link to my article.


Barb Selleck on April 30, 2014:

I found you're article while looking for some resources for a paper in my Social Problems class. I picked the subject of homelessness because it's something that weighs on my heart. Although I've never been homeless, I do have a friend that that is currently homeless...although he is not on the streets. I have to say that the words Do you see them? Can you see them? Will you see them?...brought tears to my eyes. I do plan on including some of you're article in my paper (with the link to you're paper cited)...and although I've just scanned through you're paper...I wish there was a way to share you're paper. I have to hope that papers like yours will open people's eyes and hearts...to the forgotten people...the people that "we try not to notice". I try to not take what I have for granted...always aware that I'm just a paycheck, job loss etc. away from being homeless myself. You wrote a very beautiful, moving, and informative article. Thank you for sharing. Barbara

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 24, 2014:

Kathleen, finding a home for the homeless is like putting a bandage on cancer. We need people working in this country, and we need a government focused on doing just that...improving the work opportunities so that people do not fall through the cracks when another layoff happens. Of course that won't cover all homeless...there are those who are too addicted or mentally ill who cannot work...but we have to stop the leak and get people back to work.

Kathleen on March 24, 2014:

What a statement. I am proud of you billybuc. I am trying to do a dissertation on homelessness and am having a difficult time on a research question, as there are so many issues to cover. Was wondering if you have any input on where the focus should be?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 11, 2014:

Thanks for the update, bn9900....I do a lot of wondering myself. :)

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on March 11, 2014:

Billy- Update on that woman i posted about three months ago, she moved to a new corner where there arent any jobs (Intersection of the freeway and major road). Really makes me wonder.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 11, 2014:

Thanks Shyann....good luck with that dating thing

Shyann on March 11, 2014:

ok so i read this and i enjoyed it, i also want to say since im able to type on this page lls :) im 18 im single im 4'11, i have purpe hair right now but soon to be blond and brown again, i go to greenville tech and i live in greenville SC. anyone intersted plz call..


My name? Shyann Evett

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on November 11, 2013:

bn9900, one other thing...i want to thank you for stating your opinion in a respectful way. It is not necessary that we agree with each other but I do believe it is necessary that we treat each other with respect when stating opinions. How can there ever be agreement on issues if both sides are trying to shout down each other and refuse to listen.....so thank you!

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on November 11, 2013:

Welcome Billy

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on November 11, 2013:

Thanks for your thoughts, bn9900!

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on November 11, 2013:

Billy What I am saying is that the homeless, I see are NOT children and I wonder if the Adults are faking it. The children you are referring to are not natural byproducts of a capitalist system, they are by products of lazy parents. I am tired of seeing signs reading "Family of Three Homeless". I see a gal outside our local Fred Meyers, been there since at least March.....9 months on the sidewalk....wonder how much she makes per hour, through hand outs. Sign reads "mother and son homeless anything helps", and yet FM has hired a few times since she was standing there, AND a LaQuinta being built right next store, she looks like she could clean up and work at either place, don't if she has tried to look for a job, but she is at that corner every day when I drive by.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on November 11, 2013:

bn9900, your comment was fascinating but I'm not sure what you are saying. 1/3 of the homeless are children; are you saying that all of those kids are faking it? Or that they are a natural by-product of a capitalist system?

Well, I thank you for your opinion.

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on November 10, 2013:

I am aware of the homeless, however I still remember something my father related to me when I was a teen, not so long ago: He would be driving to work and see the same 4 "homeless" beggers on the busy street corner. Didn't think much of them, because he gave through his church, well one day he saw a van that dropped them the same 4 people off and they scattered to their corners signs and cans in hand. He saw this a few days in a row, and began to wonder if they were indeed homeless. Most towns have shelters or missions that help these folks out. The mission in our town has it set up where you can use them as your address for employment applications.

If you believe in yourself then you must take care of yourself, for those few that are truly in need then there is help.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 05, 2012:

Thank you Ann! Not a pleasant subject and I suspect that's why many people just ignore it, or turn their heads, because it is not a pleasant subject. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on October 04, 2012:

Billy, this is all very sad, and unfortunately, true. I used to work in downtown Houston and I saw the homeless every day. They begged at the bus lines. It was so sad to see people reduced to begging on the streets. Many of them were not "right." You could tell by their actions that they were probably released from mental institutions.

I think it's horrible that veterans, especially are allowed to be homeless. I was alarmed at the statistics you gave.

Homelessness, as you say, is a problem for all of us. It has to start with us.

Thanks for bringing the problem to light.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 03, 2012:

Dwachira, you are oh so right; I"m fully aware of how much worse it is in other countries. I'm afraid this whole global economy thing is going to come crashing down on our collective head sooner rather than later.

Thank you for a great comment and insight.

Danson Wachira from Nairobi, Kenya on October 03, 2012:

Hi my friend billybuc,

Am sorry to say this a worldwide problem, here in Africa it is worse and slum dwellers are increasing in numbers day by day. All these is happening while governments and corporations are shying away from their civic responsibility. Voted up and useful.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 29, 2012:

Blissful, that is a huge problem and reason for this situation. Thank you for the insightful comment.

BlissfulWriter on September 28, 2012:

One of the problem is that the income gap between the rich and the poor is very large and getting larger.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 28, 2012:

Adrienne, God bless you for trying to start a program to help the homeless. With a few thousand more like you we could make a huge difference in this country. Keep up the good work and thank you for your compassion.

Turns out some very good people were once homeless. :)

Fierce Manson from Atlanta on September 28, 2012:

Billy thank you for writing this hub! Homelessness is an issue I see when I walk the street. This is a social issue I plan to do my part to help. Currently I am working on putting together a program which will serve homeless woman, and give them a safe place to live. Your story and facts is heart wrenching, I would have never thought your picture would be at the end of this hub.

Guess what I was counted as one of the homeless due to health challenges.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 21, 2012:

Theresa, this may sound strange, but thank you for crying. It speaks volumes about you as a person, that you would cry reading this. I cried writing it...and that is as it should be. There is so much pain out there, and I refuse to turn my head and pretend it does not exist. To do so would be beneath me as a human being.

Thank you for caring!

Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on September 21, 2012:

Billy -- Such a powerful, moving, and important essay. It is unbelievable that this happens in America with our wealth. I don't really have anything to say, you said it all perfectly and with righteous outrage, which is a sit should be. I am crying and I think I will be crying for a while, but that is a good thing. When our hearts are tender, we reach out to and care for others much more. Thank you, your hub is a gift to all of us. Thank you for speaking from your heart. Theresa

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 20, 2012:

Dancing, that was eloquent and passionate and I thank you! I hope this spurs action too, but I am getting more cynical by the day.

Thank you my friend!

Dancing Water on September 20, 2012:

Homeless people and animals are a message to all of us: we are failing in our basic humanity, as a nation and as a people. We have worshipped the bitch goddess success far too long, and it has blinded us to the plight, pain, and suffering of others. This is a time that tests our true humanity. We can put our money where our mouth is and can step up and do all that is humanly possible to reach out to, love, and help others, or we can turn away and pretend that the less fortunate are invisible. The good news is that they are not, and if we betray them by ignoring them, they will embed in our consciousness and conscience, and cause us endless pain.

We must love or perish.

Thank you for a beautiful, heartfelt hub, dear Bill. I pray that it spurs people to action.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 20, 2012:

Abundant, I believe that as well, and bless you on your journey. Thank you for the comment.

Abundant Old Soul from united states on September 20, 2012:

I am working as a training person at the homeless shelter where I live. I meet wonderful people each day. I really believe "give a man a fish and he eats for a day....................teach him to fish and he eats for the rest of his life."

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2012:

I completely agree, Sue; giving money to individuals does not solve the problem. This is a societal issue concerning employment and counseling......the economy needs to be fixed before we can hope to help these people. Thank you for caring!

Sueswan on September 18, 2012:

I see them everyday. I will give them money sometimes or if they ask and I don't have anything to give , I just say sorry. They say thank you and God bless. Giving money to street people is not the solution though . "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

Voted up and away


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 18, 2012:

Michele, I'm not sure how a rich politician could ever say they understand the problems of the poor. It's a bit silly of them to even suggest it. Thank you my friend; have a wonderful evening.

Michele Travis from U.S.A. Ohio on September 18, 2012:

Thank you for such a wonderful hub Billy. It is very sad that we are not helping the people who need it most. What you wrote to him was wonderful. Many of our politicians are rich and say that they understand the problems poor people are having, but they are just lying. And that makes it even worse.

Voted up.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 18, 2012:

Thank you Eddy! This one was near and dear to my heart. Hugs to you my dear!


Eiddwen from Wales on September 18, 2012:

You covered this sensitive subject brilliantly.

Here's to so many more to come Billy and enjoy your day.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2012:

Maria, I will gladly accept the hubs and your words humble me. I, too, have worked with the homeless, and it is a wake-up call that many should experience. Thank you dear lady!

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on September 17, 2012:

Some of the most rewarding feelings in my Nursing career have come from my work with the homeless in Philadelphia.

I was humbled on a daily basis by the general beauty and strength of this population. I served former social workers, teachers and many vets, who led honorable lives... And then their worlds changed dramatically for a myriad of reasons.

You writing is meaningful and from the heart. You relay your messages to us like a prophet, with much wisdom and decency.

Voted UP and UABI, Hugs, Maria

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2012:

Angie, thank you! I am always encouraged when compassionate people respond. Thank you very much!

Angie Jardine from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... on September 17, 2012:

An important and moving hub, Bill … I read it with a lump in my throat.

And everything you say about the US also goes for the UK …

As a person who counts her home as her most treasured item after her family this piece really got to me.

Well done … voted up and shared.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2012:

Sgbrown, it is just my opinion, but I believe most out there have the level of compassion that I have.....they just are so frustrated and frightened that they don't know what to do. I'm not sure my writing will accomplish anything, but I can't stay silent. Thank you for your compassion!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2012:

Thank you Mike; I appreciate you stopping by and reading.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2012:

Mary, thank you for this comment. You are right....we need a long term solution. It's beyond me why leaders don't see that and act accordingly. I agree with everything you said, including touching a nerve. I am incensed that this government turns its back on the people who served.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2012:

Jainismus, thank you for the share and for being a compassionate man.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2012:

Glimmer, your quote is correct in many ways! All it takes is the right set of circumstances and we could be there....I know from firsthand experience. Thank you my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2012:

Thank you Bill! It was as much a wake up call for myself as anyone. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2012:

Spy, it is, indeed, very sad, and it is unnecessary in the States! Thank you my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2012:

Becky, you are welcome! Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2012:

Martin, I don't have to imagine....been there, done that.....thank you Sir!

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on September 17, 2012:

It is beyond my comprehension how we as Americans can allow our veterans to be homeless and hungry! We would all be homeless and hungry if not for them! We spend billions of dollars creating fancy shopping malls and monuments. We need to use this money to take care of our brave men and women who have fought to keep us safe! Our veterans need jobs, understanding and compassion! Shame on us for not doing more for them! Voting this up, awesome and sharing! You keep writing Billy Buc! If everyone had your determination and compassion, we could change the world! :)

Mike Spain from USA on September 17, 2012:

Thanks for sharing

Mary Craig from New York on September 17, 2012:

I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone should be homeless in this country...it isn't about the money, its about caring. We care for people all over the world and we can't care for our own??? Oh, and veterans...you can bet your bippy every legislator and senator is set for life once THEY serve their government in cushy Washington, but we can't help our veterans who put their life on the line?

I really don't understand how people in government sleep at night...you've touch a nerve for me Bill, it just breaks my heart to see this injustice. All the donations we give...are they helping? Sure, in the short term but we need a long term solution and people like you and articles like yours will make a noise in the wilderness that may one day be heard!

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on September 17, 2012:

Bill, it is a great Hub on a sad topic. Here in India also many people are homeless. This is a world problem, even for many people in economically advance countries.

I have shared this Hub with my followers.

Claudia Mitchell on September 17, 2012:

Awesome hub Bill! When I graduated college I lived in NYC for 5 years and sadly became immune to the homeless. Barely scraping by I got on and off the subways with head down and my job to go to. Now I live in a rural community and I don't see any homelessness at all. When I back to the city I really see it now and I regret not seeing it more 25 years ago.

Not sure if this is the right quote or not, but here goes anyway...."There, but for the grace of God go I". It doesn't take much these days to end up on that road.

Voted up and shared so others may be inspired.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on September 17, 2012:

Hi Bill. What a shame that this happens here everyday. Your letter to Mike really got to me. What have we become that we can walk by someone in need and just ignore them. Hopefully your message spreads and more people decide to take action. Thank you for giving all of us a wake up call!

Life Under Construction from Neverland on September 17, 2012:

it's sad to think that these situations happen everyday. Used to passed by hundreds of homeless in the city alone, munching small bites of food, dirty and dotn have even warm clothes to wear. they're sleeping under train stations, under the bridge, sidewalks...anywhere. babies look so thin and sick.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on September 16, 2012:

billybuc, thank you for putting such a huge link up. I hope it helps many more people to help and get help.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on September 16, 2012:

Thank you for this. One of the mason youth favorite charity was SF's food bank. As part of the experience was: we all got to be "homeless" for a day. It was just a day's simulation but, "...imagine those who have live it everyday."

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Ruby, I am convinced that the solution lies in the individual communities; I don't believe for a second that the Federal Government is going to fix this problem. I love your suggestion and I, too, have faith in the Clinton Foundation. Thank you my friend!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on September 16, 2012:

This made me cry i'm not ashamed to say. People dying on the street today is a travesity. And it makes me mad. we must do something, but what? The only thing to do is give, give to the food banks, don't give to organizations., they skim off the top, only a small sum goes to the needy. I know Ive been there. The only organization i give to is the clinton foundation. He matches every dollar given..

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Faith, I can tell you in all honesty, I will never forget the lessons I learned in 1989. I will never again take life for granted; I will never again treat someone as if they are garbage. This is my battle...it should be the battle of every single citizen in this country.

Peace and love to you always,


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Thank you Julie! Unlike the homelessness of years gone by, this particular problem is made up, in part, of people who once had good jobs, of families who once had what they thought was the American Dream. That, my friend, is scary.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Dianna, the numbers of college grads who are homeless is astounding. This problem goes across the entire spectrum of society and it is not a 'they" problem...it is an "us" problem. There but for the grace of God....I was one of the lucky ones, but for every one of me out there, there are thousands who are not as lucky.

Thank you Dianna!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Amy, you pretty well summed it up. Make the problem go somewhere else and everything will be alright. This kind of myopic thinking makes my blood boil. Only when we call the problem what it is, a cancer of this nation, will we be able to take steps that make sense in solving it.

Thank you as always for caring.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Sha, you have taken a huge step in distancing yourself from the control of big business and the government. I am so damn proud of you young lady! Thank you for being the compassionate human being that you are.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Rich, I think you got it right the first time...big business/government...one and the same.

Thanks buddy; I greatly appreciate you taking the time to toss in your comment, and for caring.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Kellye, I have done the same volunteer work. I wish more people would so they can see firsthand how bad this is. Thank you for your caring spirit.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Vespa my friend, I hope in some small way to make a difference. We have the "head hidden in the sand" mentality here; as long as it doesn't happen to us then everything is okay, and fear is the reason for that. People in the U.S. know how bad the social problems are but they don't want to really see it up close because it is too frightening.

Social services continue to be cut in every state as budgets dwindle; the problem will only get worse.

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and show your concern.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Yvonne, I was honestly surprised that the numbers were so low for substance abuse. I would have thought they would be much higher. I know that the homeless are generally ignored by authorities here....it's a see no evil, hear no evil mentality, like the problem will just disappear of its own accord. Ridiculous of course but there you have it.

I totally agree that fear is the underlying emotion in many nowadays, and at times the fear is almost palpable.

Thank you for a great comment. Much appreciated my friend!

Faith Reaper from southern USA on September 16, 2012:

Hi billybuc - Hmmm, sounds familiar - as I have written on this very subject here on HP, a couple of times, as that is where my heart is to help the downtrodden or homeless, and as Lord de Cross commented, we are doing so right here to glorify the LORD not ourselves. Each of us should actually get out and do that act of kindess to help another person. When the Holy Spirit convicted of this some years ago, He opened my eyes back then, that these are human beings, not just garage on the side of the street. That is when I got about my Father's business in being the hands and feet of Jesus. Large corporatins are so wasteful, as I stated on CloudExplorer's hub this morning. I am so passionate about this, as I know all too well the pangs of hunger in one's stomach and what that looks like, and I will never forget that feeling. Although one may not be homeless, one may still be hungry, and it could very well be your next door neighbor. In His Love, Faith Reaper

Blurter of Indiscretions from Clinton CT on September 16, 2012:

You bring to light a serious problem in our country, where homelessness abounds amongst so much decadence in other areas (like perhaps the amount of money americans spend on clothes for their animals?!). It is all out of whack for sure. Great job.

Dianna Mendez on September 16, 2012:

The number of homeless people is growing with the downturn of the economy. It is sad to hear and to see. My husband and I volunteer at our church shelter and we get to hear their stories. Interestingly, most of the ones we serve are business people who have lost their jobs or are divorced. Depression plays a big part of their story. We have a responsibility to help our fellow man, like the good Samaritan, we must not look the other way. Voted up.

Amy Becherer from St. Louis, MO on September 16, 2012:

Bill, This is certainly not a new problem. It is growing, however. No one can claim ignorance. There isn't a city in the states that doesn't have a homeless population. I was chastised by my co-workers when I gave a homeless man a cig or a buck. I was blamed for contributing to the problem of panhandling. Yet, there is no real help for the homeless. Like one co-worker told me "there are places for those people." The frickin shelters are full. A local minister who has an old building downtown and offers the homeless a bed, is being squeezed out by the local bigshots who don't like the unsightly, motley crews of homeless people that leave city officials with the fear downtown becoming a ghost town, with decreased buying power for local merchants and lackluster tourism. I'd say its the marauding gangs with guns that take care of disappearing tourism. The sidewalk near the homeless shelter is now barracaded, with officials herding the homeless in the direction of the Mississippi River. New York bought one-way tickets to Hawaii and at least sent their homeless to a warm climate where there are now tent cities on the beaches. Government in action; just ship the problem somewhere else. The bitter irony is that without an address, you get no help, meaning those that need a hand remain conveniently invisible. The "problem" of panhandling will never go away. It's the only comfort many homeless get.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 16, 2012:

So very powerful, Bill! Not only does the government not care, but business doesn't care either. Employees are not seen as people. They are seen as commodities, if in sales and produce, or liabilities - those who run the day to day functions of business.

People are no longer appreciated for their worth or contributions. Those who live high on the hog refuse to see the struggles those who helped them onto that hog face on a day to day basis.

There's a saying that has been around for generations, but you no longer hear: Money is the root of all evil.

When will we see? When will we speak? When will we refuse to succumb to the game no one can win?

Rich from Kentucky on September 16, 2012:

Bill, great awareness issue to bring out. One never knows when they might have their entire world turned upside down and become one of the homeless themselves. Sad, but in this world of rich vs. poor, there's not a lot of hope at times. Makes one wonder about what big business is thinking... sorry, what the government is thinking at times. Great job, my friend.

kelleyward on September 16, 2012:

Thanks for shedding light on this sad reality. I use to volunteer at the day center for the homeless in Tulsa and remember how difficult it was seeing the harsh realities these homeless families face. Voted up! Blessings, Kelley

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on September 16, 2012:

This is another beautiful, poignant hub and especially touching because of your personal experience with homelessness. Your letter to "Mike" is very touching. This is definitely a social issue. Interestingly, although Peru is such a poor country homelessness is not a big issue. We've rarely seen homeless people (except maybe in the capitol city Lima), and it's usually due to mental illness. It's the same scenario over and over: the family wants to care for the mentally ill individual, but the person refuses help. And since healthcare for the mentally ill is so lacking in this country, some cannot be helped. So they live on the streets. But the point is: families are close knit and the community won't tolerate a person living on the street for lack of work. They move in with their closest relative whether a cousin, aunt, uncle, etc. Of course, there are many other issues here. Poverty is a big one. But many houses here are fashioned out of mud bricks and it's still better than living on the street. Again, this is very moving and so nice that you want to make a difference. : )

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Martie, thank you! My guess is the disaster will be man-made, and I sure hope I'm wrong.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on September 16, 2012:

Such a sad course of events! Looking at the list of causes, surely the Government is able to make amends. So why don't they?

We have the same problem. Informal settlements - shelters of corrugated iron - pop up overnight in open spaces like mushrooms after rain.

What disaster is going to rectify over-population on our planet?

Thumbs up, Billybuc :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Deb, as you well know, these problems are not going away. They are cancers that have been treated with bandaids and now they are spreading and will affect us at some point. I can't stay silent! Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Sasha, great point about the convenience store. I owned one at one time and if I kicked every "undesirable" out of the store I would have had no business. Thank you for your kind words; greatly appreciated!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Thank you Tammy! That's exactly what I'm trying to do....raise awareness. I can't move mountains but I can move people, one at a time. I appreciate you taking the time on a Sunday to comment, and for your caring spirit.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Hi Ardie!

We have two of those "camps" in our area. Do you know what they remind me of? The Hoovervilles of the Great Depression. That's quite a commentary on the economic times. Thank you for your comment and for reminding people about the Dollar Store during the winter; it could be a trip that will save someone's life.

Sondra from Neverland on September 16, 2012:

Hi Bill, you give words to so many who get lost in the shuffle of day to day life. These homeless are out there and they are alone and sometimes they have children with them - and they have feelings. They arent invisible and they shouldn't be treated like they are. I hate seeing the homeless in this area during the winter. It breaks my heart because the temps can be so cruel. There's a "camp" in Akron (my area) where the homeless put up lean-to's and tents and they gather for safety. The police patrol the area but pretty much leave the people alone. There's a local group here also and they collect winter wear and blankets for this "camp". I always offer what I can. Sometimes it only takes a little to bring someone back up. The dollar stores carry hats and gloves for a dollar (I know - a dollar at the dollar store?! hehe). Spend a 5 if you have it and help someone. Excellent topic.

Tammy from North Carolina on September 16, 2012:

This is a very sad story and all too common. It makes me sick that so many Veterans are betrayed by our country like this and end up on the street. That should not happen. Great hub to raise awareness about this problem in our country.

Sasha Kim on September 16, 2012:

"Do you see them? Can you see them? Will you see them?"

Wonderful line you used throughout. Eugene, OR is also a city that "tolerates" the homeless. My husband and his parents own/run a convenience store. Homeless and college students are what keeps the store running, how is that bad for business?

I especially liked your letter to "Mike" it brought me to tears. If only everyone had a quarter of your compassion, this world would be a much better place. Thank you for another fantastic hub Bill! Voted and shared!

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on September 16, 2012:

We turn a blind eye to everything that isn't to our standards, do we not? Yes, it is pitiful that our veterans STILL live like this, that the dirty guy that we might be working with doesn't yet have enough money for a down payment for a rental. There is so much that we don't understand, yet we will complain about it and hope that it goes away. Uh-huh...

Yvonne Spence from UK on September 16, 2012:

Bill this is a powerful hub. I had no idea so many children were homeless in the US. I don't know what the figures are for the UK, but I know we have many homeless. My daughter wrote a report about the issue for school, and discovered that in the UK mental health problems was a major cause of homelessness. Her view (and I agree) is that if more funding was put into supporting people with mental health problems, homelessness might be reduced.

One figure that surprised me was how low the substance abuse numbers are because over here I've seen estimates as high as 90%. How accurate that is I don't know, but way back in the 80s a television reporter went "down and out in London" for a month, living only on what a homeless person would get. He said that by the end of the experience he was close to turning to drink - and he knew he could leave it all behind. Reading his book had a profound effect on me, and I can still remember much of it 30 years later.

He also found that authorities treated the homeless with indifference and disdain. In one hostel he was made to strip naked and then was interrogated. We had a particularly harsh government at the time, but I don't know honestly know whether things have improved or got worse now.

As for your question, "How does it happen?" Bill, that reminded me of this from Pastor Martin Niemoller, (you probably know it, but it is worth repeating.)

"First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me."

Fear is what stops people from speaking out, not selfishness. Some people are so afraid they just can't bear to see suffering - it overwhelms them. I know I've felt that way sometimes. I couldn't possibly give money to every homeless person I see or I'd become one too, and so I have to decide, who do I support? What we tend to do is to give money to the charities who support the homeless or to those who sell "The Big Issue," a magazine sold by homeless people who are getting back on their feet.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2012:

Becky, thank you and please do link this; I will do the same. This topic needs to be shouted often!

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