Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

OPINION: The government places blame on homeless people

Sofia Johnson

Behind Louisiana’s tourist attractions and rich culture, a horrifying reality lies, one of appalling poverty and destitution.

According to Census 2021, Louisiana: Poverty, Income and Health Insurance, Louisiana ranks 1st in poverty, 2nd in child poverty, the 3rd lowest household median income, and 3rd highest income inequality.

In addition, it’s reported that the percentage of Louisianans who live below half the federal poverty line increased to 9.4% in 2021 from 8.7% in 2019.
This could have been caused by the COVID-19 virus, a lack of recent tourism, or some even suggest that there is an issue with the culture of Louisiana that causes this abject poverty.

I believe, however, there is a deeper reason for homelessness and poverty not only in Louisiana but in America as a whole; I wish to explore the causes of homelessness, how it persists, and how it could be solved.


When delving into the topic of homelessness, it is often simplified about how people plummet into that position. Some presume that homelessness is caused by a person’s bad decisions that they must pull themselves out of through hard work. Others see it as an unfortunate circumstance that could be assisted or solved through basic charity.

The reality of how homelessness is caused is actually very complex. While it would be impossible to speak on every cause of homelessness, we should look into the most major factors.
The most prevalent reason is the market unwilling to provide affordable housing. According to the United Way National Capital Area, 16 million homes are vacant across the US. Instead of these homes being used to help shelter the homeless population, they collect dust and mildew to keep the prices of the housing market and rent inflated at exuberant rates. Alfred M. Clark, a real estate attorney, said renting prices and the rental housing market contributes heavily to the homelessness issue. “The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University reported that, in 2015, 43 million families and individuals reside in rental housing, an increase of 9 million over 2005. As a result, 37 percent of U.S households rent, up from 31 percent in 2005, and the highest rate of households rent since the mid-1960s,” he said. Clark is saying not only are American families relying more on rental housing but they are also suffering due to a lack of affordable rent compounded by their stagnant wages. Rental housing has become such a problem that it is ‘burdening’ these families’ financial status significantly, according to Clark. These statistics are very worrying, especially when combined with the fact that wages for Americans have barely budged in decades. “Average hourly earnings peaked more than 45 years ago: The $4.03-an-hour rate recorded in January 1973 had the same purchasing power that $23.68 would today,” Drew Desilver, a senior writer for the Pew Research Center.
When this is taken into consideration, it could be better understood why homelessness has become so prevalent in America. When rental housing provides itself as the only reasonable alternative to unaffordable housing, landlords are given the ample opportunity to rob families out of huge percentages of the incomes which put these families at greater risk of poverty.

This is not even mentioning other essentials these families have to pay for such as food, water, healthcare, gas and insurance for cars, or any other financial emergencies. When all of these costs pile on, homelessness or the high risk of it, doesn’t seem so far-off. But does this relate to Louisiana exactly? As previously mentioned, Louisiana is the leading state in poverty. According to the 2021 census, Louisiana’s median household income is currently $52,087 while the national median household income is $70,800.

According to, if a Louisiana citizen wanted to rent a 2-bedroom apartment, they would have to pay an average of $844 a month or $10,128 dollars a year, taking quite a hefty chunk of income from renters’ hands. But rent and stagnant wages aren’t the only factors contributing to homelessness, other essential necessities, like food and healthcare, are also not provided to citizens at an affordable rate.

What sustains homelessness?

I believe that three major factors are in play which are the myth of the American Dream, lack of political will, and the use of punitive measures against the homeless population. Put simply, the American Dream is the belief that all people are given an equal opportunity to succeed, regardless of race, gender, or other factors, through hard work and perseverance.

American ideology was founded on this dream; it was propagandized to us since we were children from our parents, schools, and our cartoons. So when someone fails to achieve this American Dream, the immediate response is to blame the individual.

This obsession with equating homelessness with personal and moral failure is a brilliant narrative by those who stand at the top of the socioeconomic ladder. So when these systemic issues bring people into poverty or homelessness, propaganda of the American Dream allows people outside of that position to see themselves as superior. This seeps into the political decisions as societal apathy is aimed against these marginalized groups and disincentivizes voters from voting for policies that could help end homelessness and poverty. In the absence of effective policies, only policies that maintain the status quo are pushed out into broader society, including those that criminalize homelessness. These policies include encampment evictions, hostile architecture, stripping of safety net programs, and more. In regards to encampment evictions, the police forcefully evict homeless people from their temporary encampments they use to sleep in at night so they don’t end up sleeping on the street. Not only is this method of “eliminating” homeless inhumane, but ineffective as well, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “Sweeping encampments too often harms individuals by destroying their belongings, including their shelter, ID and other important documents, medications, and mementos. More often than not, this leaves the homeless person in a worse position than before,” they say. Hostile architecture is another method used to reduce the visibility of homelessness but only hurts the community economically in the long run. Hostile architecture is essentially structures made to deter homeless people away from a certain area. These could include fences, bars, rocks, spikes, and even loudspeakers.

Not only are these structures expensive to build and maintain but they drain money away from resources that could be used to help house the homeless while also making the aforementioned homeless more vulnerable to natural hazard and crime.

But why is this done? Apparently, it is meant to help the homeless to turn to housing services instead of the streets. The hypothesis is that when the homeless are constantly being dispersed and put into danger, they will go into housing services and become productive members of society again. This logic is questionable at best. In fact, this line of logic is quickly dispelled by the National Law Center on Homeless & Poverty. “Providing outreach backed with resources for real alternatives is the far better, proven approach,” they said. “This approach may require upfront investment of time, but has documented far more permanent solutions, ensuring those communities’ street corners will be free of homeless individuals not temporarily, because they are in jail, but long term, by ensuring they have an adequate alternative place to be.” The forceful and punitive responses to homelessness not only fail to solve the problem, but actually perpetuate the issue by draining resources from actual solutions to permanently end or reduce homelessness across the nation.

Possible solutions

Through the use of proper funding, the 16 million US homes left vacant could be used to help create stable and affordable housing. This would give the homeless population access to jobs, education, work, government benefits and other opportunities that could make the path out of homelessness and poverty much easier. If the creation of a universal basic livable income is established, more people would be given access to greater buying power, not only helping reduce poverty substantially but allowing people to participate in the economy and stimulating it as well. The best way to eliminate it would be to have necessities such as childcare, medical care, education, and housing to become deprivatized and be paid through taxes, like many other first world countries. Through this new system, many citizens would be able to focus their incomes on improving their lives rather than on basic necessities.

This could be funded by reallocation of funding from inefficient or bloated systems such as the police and the military, which both cost hundreds of billions of dollars. By making the affluent billionaires and millionaires pay taxes and eliminating unnecessary tax write offs and other loopholes, the ability to have these necessities is much closer in grasp.

While some may argue that this would waste taxpayer money and encourage a culture of laziness, these programs give people better opportunities to succeed rather than using that money for ineffective punitive measures to punish those already hurt by the system.

We must look for solutions that create humane programs and compassionate communities to help destroy the systems that create oppressive punishments and callous people to benefit the few.

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  • A

    Andrew BernardOct 28, 2023 at 1:26 pm

    The government isn’t interested in providing for the homeless they are one of the reasons why so many people are living on the streets today.

  • T

    ThomasOct 27, 2023 at 8:25 am

    Government loves to entrap the population in order to get support for their power..they are not interested in people..
    Elite positions.