Too many times the kneejerk reaction to homelessness is to immediately criminalize it. My approach to this issue would be to treat homeless people as human beings, each with their own challenges and virtues, yet all worthy of dignity and opportunity.
People experience homelessness for so many different reasons. Many have lost a job, been evicted, are escaping a domestic violence situation, or have any number of health issues, including mental illness. The city can help address these challenges and set people on a new and more productive course by coordinating with nonprofit, religious, and other government agencies that provide beneficial services. We can do better by ensuring these services are coordinated and accessible while identifying any gaps that exist.
Albuquerque, New Mexico has made strides in addressing homelessness through an aggressive affordable housing and jobs program. The key is not having a one size fits all solution and making sure we are addressing the root causes of homelessness rather than simply reacting to individual situations. I truly believe that most homeless people can be productive members of society again. Some situations will continue to require a law enforcement response. But that will be the exception rather than the norm when we approach homelessness in a comprehensive and humane way.