Like COVID-19, homelessness is a growing national pandemic. Every community, rich, poor, warm or freezing, is experiencing an explosion of tent camps. In Napa, the fires, pandemic and faltering economy have pushed many to the brink or over the edge.
It’s not the first time we’ve experienced chronic homelessness. During the Great Depression, we called the homeless “tramps” and “bums” or even worse: they were called “Okies.”
The homelessness growth in the ‘70s saw the federal government’s failure to address national poverty. This forced states and local governments to reluctantly address the issue independently without a strategic vision.
Today in America, there are 567,000 “shelter-challenged” persons. Thirty percent suffer from mental illness; 20% are veterans and another 20% are children and juveniles. Today, 60 million Americans are one paycheck away from losing their shelter.
Recently Napa started demolishing some of its existing tent settlements. While on the surface, it might appear heartless, but the risk of COVID 19 and other disease spreading is real. The city insists that it is not displacing anyone who asks for shelter but how long will they have access?
The discussions on how to solve this growing problem is in limbo. However, when disaster strikes, there is one fundamentally needed human necessity: a safe place to sleep.