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September 13, 2013
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Letter: Many things contribute to homelessness in Douglas County

Homelessness a complex issue

In a recent News-Review article on the prospects of establishing a safe, legal camp space for those in our community without housing, the owner of a local business was quoted as saying, “In most cases, the homeless individuals simply do not want to abide by societal rules ... they want their vices and have made their choices, but they want others to pay for their consequences.”

The business owner has seemingly overlooked the fact that “societal rules” have been set up in such a way that they are impossible for those without housing to abide by. The societal rules in Roseburg, for example, preclude sleeping and urinating, but it is not a defiant disregard for rules that motivates people to indulge in these biological necessities.

Furthermore, it is far from clear where the business owner gained her insight into the causes of homelessness. But people who have studied the issue generally point to structural causes rather than individual moral failings as better explanations for the existence of widespread homelessness. Instead, it appears that she is relying on crude stereotypes and victim-blaming as a means to avoid genuinely engaging a fairly complicated issue.

Her theory cannot explain the large number of children who are currently homeless or women who escaped abusive relationships but had nowhere else to go. Her perspective also ignores the young people who are kicked out onto the street because their families don’t accept their sexual orientation or gender identity. Corrupt banking practices, fraudulent foreclosures and unexpected job loss are not examples of people making bad choices, clinging to vices, or thumbing their noses at societal rules.

Her simplistic explanation is not simply inaccurate, but also contributes to a hostile atmosphere toward the most vulnerable members of our community.

Ian Smith


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The News-Review Updated Oct 14, 2013 12:56PM Published Sep 13, 2013 12:56PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.