A few weeks ago my rent was raised. While a financial setback for me, I realized after pondering it for a time that it would be, and is likely, a nightmare for others. It's no secret that Cape Cod has a housing problem, and it's time to fix it. But it starts in a place most might not have considered: the mind.
For as long as I've lived on this beautiful but complex peninsula there has been a stigma attached to anyone who either needs housing assistance, or is actually homeless. Recently I read comments in a newspaper article from residents responding to the possibility of a transitional home coming to their neighborhood. I was appalled to read about fears for the safety of their families should the home come to fruition, as if being homeless somehow translates to also being dangerous.
Being homeless simply means that someone is without a home. Yes, that someone could be someone known for trouble with the law, but in so many cases that someone is not a criminal, but instead is a single mother struggling to raise her children after leaving an abusive marriage. It's an elderly man or woman forced onto the streets because their social security checks don't cover both expensive medication costs beyond medicare and housing. It's an LGBT youth kicked out of their home by an phobic family worried more about the opinions of others than the welfare of their child. In other words, it's a human, being.
It's especially frightening when landlords and rental companies insist on increasing the rent to head-scratching increments. Given how difficult it can be for someone like me, a professionally employed single parent, I am sometimes stopped cold by wondering just how workers making minimum wage can survive, especially when far too many others are thwarting every effort to ensure they have a safe place to live.
Until we, collectively, stop stigmatizing the homeless and making sweeping judgments about them, efforts to bring affordable housing to the region will continue to fail. That hurts. Why? Because more of us than you realize are living paycheck to paycheck, praying that nothing serious drops on us like a major car repair or health problem that will wreak havoc on our budget. More of us than you realize are literally one paycheck away from homelessness, not because of hidden addictions or foolish choices, but simply because there is too much month left at the end of the money.
It's time to step away from the dollar signs and the bottom lines and remember that no one is housing a paycheck or a wad of cash. Those who rent (while dreaming of owning) are people. We are your friends. Your colleagues. We are mothers, fathers, grandparents, and recent college (and sometimes high school) graduates who just want to have a place to call home without the fear of it being here today, gone tomorrow.