By Morgan Howard
As I have grown up in the city of Spokane, there has always been a homeless problem, yet I don’t remember it being this bad when I was young. According to the Spokane Point-in-Time Count in 2020, “541 people unsheltered in Spokane, more than 226 more than in 2019 and nearly four times the number counted in 2017,” which was before the pandemic started .
Now that I am a high school student, I have watched more kids fall under drugs, seeing the impact it took on them. Drug abuse is one of the biggest reasons people fall into homelessness, creating a self-induced social disability for families around our community. City Council member Jonathan Bingle says, “Addiction is the main way people find themselves in homelessness; especially single men and teens” .
It makes me worried knowing that we are all one misstep away from becoming homeless ourselves. With this said, how can we help the most vulnerable who live on the streets of Spokane?
This question and the changes I have seen in our city and in my own generation has led me to dig in to find a remedy. In doing so, I watched a video of homeless experiences, and I noticed a lot of them talked about the importance of hope.
They all dealt with a lot of people who don’t understand what it is like living without a home. So many have had things stolen from them, including backpacks, which often houses their livelihood. Those who got their backpacks taken way said that they lost more than a backpack – they lost hope.
We should not be taking away the only item that offers security to those most vulnerable. In a way, it is pushing victims of this crime further into their struggle. In our city, we should be treating the folks that need us the most with great care and compassion.
Our next step should be financially supporting individual programs like Rick Clark’s Giving Back Packs. Clark’s nonprofit has been serving those on the streets since 2018. Sponsored backpacks would contain simple foods, water bottle, toothbrush/toothpaste, hairbrush, and bus pass, focusing on the basic needs to help them move forward. We should be doing everything we can to keep hope in their hearts.
Something that our community doesn’t tend to think about is the number of homeless families we have with kids that still attend school. According to the Point-in-Time Count in 2020, “Of all persons counted, 15% were age 17 and younger (and) 90% were in households without children, 8% were in households with adults and children, 2% were in households with only children.”
A sense of dignity is essential for our youth that attend school. Thus, having backpacks, clothes and shoes are essential. Like North Central High School where I attend, public schools should have a clothing closet and a food pantry for anyone who needs it. Humanity starts with dignity.
Since kids started returning to “in-building learning after COVID, schools have been providing free breakfast and lunch for everyone. This is something we should continue to give for our kids because this might be one of the only meals some kids are getting in their day. In addition, too many families rely on this for their child’s meal for the day.
Like those who have had a backpack stolen, too many living on our streets have lost hope in their tomorrow. Let compassion fuel our need to bring both back as we change the course of our city’s homeless problem.
Let’s all work on a better tomorrow.