The Big Surge of Homeless In Oakland – What and Why?

So I’m driving down a main corridor I’ve traveled a thousand times and I see this massive surge of homeless.  What is going on?  And why?  I took this picture of an entire tent city that had popped up below the 580/980 crossover.  I was stunned.  While I’m not oblivious to the homeless pandemic it seemed in the month or so since I had driven by this stretch of road what seemed to have been a small problem, small, but serious had now become much greater. The image hardly does it justice.  This is one fraction of this “tent city” from this angle.  There must’ve been 30 or more tents that looped around the entire block.I’m really devastated by this and not sure what to make of it?  I have to wonder why all of the sudden there is  a huge convergence of homeless possibly 50 in this one area.  Where had they come from?  What had happened?  What is going on in America of all places?  The riches of a nation cannot help a small community of homeless.  I’m pondering the answers and the big questions.  While I’ve passed out food and blankets over the years through an overwhelming sense of needing to help in some way and do my little part for my fellow man it’s not the answer.  And while it’s awesome someone or some organization had come by and delivered 30 brand new shiny tough tents to brave the wind, hardly the cold this is also not the answer.  Handing out food and offering tents keeps these poor lost people stuck in their circumstance.  It might be gracious and noble and offer fleeting comfort in the moment, but once that moment has fleeted they are still homeless, cold and a few hours from hunger all over again.Unlike a lot of people who don’t exercise a lot of empathy for the homeless and can simply write them off as lazy people who don’t want to work I think it bodes a deeper questioning.  These are not lazy people who don’t want to work and enjoy hunger and the cold.  There are deep seated problems that lead people to despair and eventual homelessness.  Imagine not having a single person in the world to take you in when you fall on hard times or perhaps have a mental breakdown?  None of us are that far from it really.  Life offers up opportunities for breakdowns on quite the regular basis.  I have “normal” functioning friends who struggle with anxiety and at any given time are a breath away from a nervous breakdown.  We all have had our moments of vulnerability and our emotional breakdowns from time to time.  There’s a bigger problem her,   not just the simple dismissal of “these people can’t function and don’t know how to take care of themselves.” While that may be very much the case, what is the answer?  What are we doing as a society to help them?  What is the answer?  What is the long term solution to help these lost souls?  Is there an answer?  Or this karma and simply the hand they’ve been dealt?  I’m not sure.

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Sue Dhillon is an Indian American writer, journalist, and trainer.

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