By Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Washington, D.C. — President Obama has taken office. The Bush era is
over. And Obama is starting out like a ball of fire, mandating that
there be greater disclosure of government activities, that Gitmo be
closed, and that everyone in his administration be barred from being a
lobbyist while he remains in office.
While this doesn’t fix our systemic flaws, it suggests that President
Obama may heed the words of the American public. It even creates the
hope that bottom-up change — change brought about by the likes of you
and me — is possible.
Meanwhile, the Obama rage rages on. People all over the nation are
devising agendas for the new President. In doing so, they are
developing a social consciousness and getting involved in running the
nation. No doubt his transition team is being inundated with
suggestions as to what changes he should make. Just which domestic
concerns will take precedence with the president remain to be
People become homeless for a myriad of reasons. “All roads lead to
Rome,” and in this case, the roads symbolize the various problems and
social ills of our society — mental illness, substance abuse, domestic
violence, condo conversion, and the lack of affordable health care, a
living wage, and affordable housing.
The “Rome” all of these roads lead to is homelessness. So it behooves
President Obama to focus considerable attention on solving
homelessness. In fact, the President could devise his entire domestic
policy simply by setting up office at a homeless shelter and addressing
the issues of its residents.
In so doing, he’d encounter every problem our nation faces. In some
cases, the homeless person would have personal experience with a
problem — running from a violent husband, for instance, or losing their
job and their apartment during a prolonged hospital stay. In others,
there would have been a trickle-down effect — inflation and decreased
buying power . . . or corporate mismanagement causing people to lose
their jobs and savings.
As the President began tracing each problem of the homeless to its
roots, he’d eventually face every problem with which the nation is
So when, if ever, will homelessness become a core political issue?
That’s beginning to happen even now. Today’s headlines are chock full
of stories about tent cities popping up and municipal governments
placing homeless families in motels. Then there are the doctors and
lawyers taking unskilled jobs as waitresses and stock boys, and the
formerly middle-class people joining the ranks of the homeless.
Capitalism has run its course and is imploding on itself. The
established system is unraveling right before our very eyes. The ranks
of the middle and upper classes are shrinking, while the ranks of the
poor, homeless, and dispossessed are swelling.
It is just a matter of time before the “have-nots” have to teach the
“haves” how to make do and to live without all of their creature
comforts. It won’t be long before the issue of homelessness takes
center stage. In the meantime, we must continue to confront our local,
state, and federal governments — including President Obama himself —
and to press them for solutions to the problem.
Let homelessness be the spot we continually take a punch at, like a
boxer pounding away at one part of his opponent’s body. Let’s demand
solutions to homelessness from government. After all, housing is a
human right. And if anybody is denied it everybody is at risk,
Eric Jonathan Sheptock is a
leader of the homeless in Washington, D.C.