Believing that you need to treat others as you wish others to treat you, starting in 1992, Dr. Jim Withers has been serving the homeless community of Pittsburgh (PA). At first, he dressed up as a homeless person to provide medical care to the ones most 2-leggeds wish to ignore. In 24 years, Dr. Withers estimates he has treated some 10,000 homeless. He now has an organization, Operation Safety Net, providing medical care from specially outfitted vans and drop-in centers. The organization also advocates for insurance and housing for the homeless.
According to the National Alliance to End Homeleness: “While circumstances can vary, the main reason people experience homelessness is because they cannot find housing they can afford. It is the scarcity of affordable housing in the United States, particularly in more urban areas where homelessness is more prevalent, that is behind their inability to acquire or maintain housing.”
As of January 2015, more than 560,000 people were homeless in the USA, of which some 206,000 were families. Homeless also include youths who become homeless mostly due to family conflict, including divorce, neglect, or abuse. A number of Veterans are homeless “due to war-related disabilities. For a variety of reasons – physical disability, mental anguish, post-traumatic stress, etc. – many veterans find readjusting to civilian life difficult. Difficulties readjusting can give rise to dangerous behaviors, including addiction, abuse, and violence, which, coupled with the difficulties, can lead to homelessness.”
Homeless are also including older people at a rising pace. Studies show that, in the 1990s, “only” 11% of homeless were aged 50 or over. By 2003, that percentage had risen to 37%. Today, it is estimated that more than 50% of the homeless are over 50 (see, National Institute on Aging).
Here’s a link to a video of Dr. Withers. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Withers: “Everybody matters. We need to look out for the people that are the most ostracized in our own communities. That will make us better people.”