During the long, drawn out presidential race that ended a mere four weeks ago, candidates rarely, if ever, breathed the "H-word." But some are hoping, with the promise of change still hovering in the air, that President-Elect Obama will take a decisive stand, and use his office to address homelessness.
In a five-page letter sent to Obama's transition team on Nov. 25, the National Coalition for the Homeless urged our imminent leader to give priority to the "needs of America's most vulnerable population:" homeless people. "As many as 3.5 million people are homeless over the course of a year, including 1.35 million children," the letter states. "Your strong leadership is needed to end this crisis."
On one level, the O-man seems primed to hear the message. As a senator, he was a sponsor of the Homes for Heroes Act, legislation that aimed to provide housing for homeless, very low-income vets. And his choice for veep, Joe Biden, worked toward keeping domestic violence survivors from ending up on the streets, by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act while in Congress.
The plea presents a six-point plan, including access to affordable housing, expanding access to health care, ensuring educational stability for homeless youth and children, and protecting the homeless from discrimination. Of course, with the nation officially in a recession, Obama has a platter heaped with economic woes. Still, the coalition notes it's important for the administration to understand that "homelessness is more than just a charitable concern, but an issue of basic human rights that affects the overall wellbeing of our country." Which is one reason why the coalition, bucking a trend where municipalities across the country are enacting plans to end homelessness in, say, 10 years, proposes another, less lengthy timeline for its demise: "Now."