Leavitt Center members Abby Bedont and Kerri Jensen discussed homelessness in America during this past week’s Pizza and Politics event on Nov. 15.
According to their presentation, homelessness is defined as “the state of having no home or the condition of lacking stable, safe and functional housing.” There are four types of homelessness: transitional homelessness, which is a result of life events or traumatic changes such as job loss; episodic, which is a long-term pattern of homelessness interspersed with periods of housing; chronic, which is a state of perpetually being homeless and thus being forced to make a habit out of sleeping in places like under bridges; and hidden, which is homelessness that the public does not even notice because the people are couch-surfing or sleeping in cars.
Bedont and Jensen gave various graphs and statistics to help the audience’s perspective. The homeless population is 0.18% of the population of the U.S. as a whole, 0.11% of the population in Utah and, in Iron County, 12 individuals have been documented as currently experiencing homelessness.
They also emphasized the problem of stigma against homeless people since many assume that they must be unemployed, lazy or even dangerous. In reality, many homeless people are currently employed or are attempting to become employed, and they are statistically much more likely to be victims of violence and abuse rather than the perpetrators. For example, domestic violence is a common cause of people being forced into homelessness.
The manifestations of this stigma include that homeless people are often afraid or reluctant to seek help from available social institutions and that cities actively plan to keep homeless people away. One common technique is “hostile architecture,” where doorways or sidewalks are designed with spikes, sculptures or handrails to prevent homeless people from being able to sleep there.
“It seems to me that there’s a bit of a conflict between the public opinion and the political opinion,” said Taylor Bird, a junior majoring in chemistry who attends Pizza and Politics every week. “The public opinion, which is what we’re hearing from most attendees at the Leavitt Center, is homelessness is bad and it should end. But at the same time, it seems that there’s still a lot of laws and policies being passed that don’t help at all, like with hostile architecture.”
According to Bedont and Jensen, it would require $20 billion to end homelessness in America; in contrast, about $19 billion are wasted annually by appliances left plugged in, and $718 billion were spent on the military in 2019.
Resources in Cedar City available to help those who are struggling include the HOPE Pantry for students at Southern Utah University; Canyon Creek Services, a shelter for victims of domestic violence and abuse; and Iron County Care and Share Emergency Center, a temporary shelter where people can get back on their feet. Bedont and Jensen advised attendees to never call the police on a homeless person who is not causing or threatening to cause violence.
The next Pizza and Politics event will be on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at noon and will be a soap box event where attendees are invited to stand up and share their opinions on whatever subjects they like.
Author: Emily Walters
Photographer: Emily Walters
Editor: Chevy Blackburn