Don’t pretend to be hungry or homeless, just help


A recent New Yorker article mentions that if Yankee Stadium’s 50,287 seats were filled with that city’s homeless, there would still be several thousands left standing.

When I was in New York during the 1980s, Grand Central Station opened its tunnels to the homeless. There weren’t enough shelters then either.

According to a Walla Walla County Point-in-Time survey 2013, about 400 individuals were homeless.

Sheila Hagar’s recent U-B article reported that a homeless woman was provided a trailer house for shelter, but then other needs soon became apparent. She needed to locate her Social Security number in order to receive government assistance. For that she needed to find her birth certificate. Then she needed to be taken to a clinic to fill out health records.

Clothes contributions were made. A generous donation from locals has provided her with a front door and electrical wiring for the trailer. And the work still isn’t done. Her trailer needs a new floor and insulation for the winter.

All of this effort has gone to the benefit of one individual. There are 400 others still waiting.

A recent U-B article suggested that the SNAP (food stamp) program provides enough money to support a family of five, if certain budgetary constraints are adhered to.

A Washington Fair Market Rent survey found that a two-bedroom apartment is $966 per month? In order to afford that level of rent and utilities — without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing — a household must earn $3,221 monthly or $38,652 annually? This later quote comes from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The income to afford such housing requires an hourly wage of $18.58. In Walla Walla County the wage is slightly lower at $14.62.

Of course that wage depends completely on job availability. It’s doubtful the SNAP program will still provide for the family since its budget has been cut in half?

Where will that help come from?

The food stamp challenge asks people to try living on $4.50 a day for a week. The homeless challenge asks people to try sleeping outside over night. Both challenges strike me as being somewhat condescending, since neither the hungry nor the homeless gains from a middle-class person pretending to be hungry or homeless for a period of time.

Empathy is important in motivating action but we must understand that such actions don’t relieve the needs of an overlooked population.

Todd Oleson

Walla Walla


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