No matter what city you either live in or visit, there’s a good chance it has a homeless population. The issue of homelessness continues to grow across the United States, especially in recent years with the global COVID-19 pandemic. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 580,466 people experienced homelessness in one single night across the United States in 2020. It’s leaving many to wonder what can be done to help curb homelessness as it increasingly affects where we live, work, and play.
As the issue of homelessness gets more notoriety, politics more readily enters the equation. And when it comes to politics, it’s easy to become divided on the approaches and motivations for tackling issues of the day. However, it’s absolutely critical we come together as a nation, from both sides of the aisle, to help solve homelessness. And it’s not just the government’s responsibility. We need help from everyone—government, businesses, nonprofits, churches, and individuals—to get the job done. Everyone deserves a seat at the table. After all, when we all come together, we soon realize we have more in common on this issue than we think, and we end up getting much more accomplished.
Homelessness impacts both Democrats and Republicans (and everyone else)
Last time I checked, both Democrats and Republicans live in cities. Or you could more accurately say, people live in cities. And that’s precisely what I mean: whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat (or affiliated with another party), you’re a person who shares the same roads, parks, and neighborhoods with everyone else in your city. As a city resident or visitor, you’re going to be affected by what goes on there, including homelessness.
When both sides of the political spectrum understand that homelessness is a bipartisan issue that impacts everyone, it becomes less about political affiliations and agendas and more about helping people in our own communities. When this happens, we can start changing homelessness in our cities for the better.
Focus on where we agree and meet in the middle
I recently had the opportunity to chat with David Dworkin, President and CEO of the National Housing Conference, when he appeared as a guest on the Real Hope Podcast. During our discussion, David described the National Housing Conference as an unlikely coalition of housing organizations representing both the political left and the right. With this in mind, David shared how people are often surprised at how much these organizations agree on when they come together around the issue of housing. By coming together, according to David, the National Housing Conference has been more effective in getting things done.
In my own experience here in Nashville, I’ve found the same results—when we focus on finding common ground with the initiatives we agree upon, we start making progress. But in order to find common ground, we first need to talk together about the issues affecting our community, like homelessness. Even with our differences, when we begin to talk about the issues we care about, we start to build unity and find goals we can all support.
We may not agree on how we want to accomplish these common goals to impact the homeless in our cities, and that’s okay, as long as we’re willing to meet in the middle. You see, there’s no competition in the center. Taking a bipartisan approach allows us to compromise. Either side may not get exactly what they want, but a compromise leads to change. And before you know it, we’re making progress.
Varied backgrounds and experiences are needed at the table
When we see homelessness as a bipartisan issue, we allow for more people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences to work together, both in the public and private sector. Since homelessness isn’t a one size fits all issue, we really need different perspectives from all walks of life to have a seat at the table. New and unique perspectives bring fresh ideas and innovative approaches for impacting the homeless in our community.
Continuing my conversation with David Dworkin, he shared how Detroit’s bankruptcy in 2013 forced the city to work together to tackle issues in the community. Government leaders, prominent residents, and the private sector really stepped up to collaborate, and together they were able to revitalize Detroit’s downtown into a more vibrant community.
When it comes to homelessness, the government cannot solve it all on its own. Neither can the private sector. Nor the nonprofits and faith communities. It takes everyone working together, leveraging the resources they have, to make the greatest impact.
Bipartisan ways to get involved
As you’re reading this, you may be wondering how you can take a bipartisan approach to helping the homeless in your community. After all, since homelessness affects everyone, you have a part to play in creating change, too. Here are a few ideas you can pursue to help make a bipartisan impact:
- Volunteer at a nonprofit – there are a number of great nonprofits helping the homeless in your community. People from all walks of life (and political affiliations) work at or volunteer at these organizations, allowing you to serve together and equally contribute to creating change.
- Reach out to your local, state, and federal representatives – contact your government representatives (regardless of their political party) to ask what they’re doing to help the homeless and learn how you can get involved.
- Discuss homelessness with your community – find ways to discuss the issue of homelessness with your friends, coworkers, and in your faith community. Your advocacy spreads greater awareness. Plus, you’ll get unique perspectives as you talk with different groups of people.
Let’s work together to love our neighbors
Homelessness is a complex issue nationwide that can’t be fixed overnight. When we take a bipartisan approach to addressing it, we have a greater chance of making a more lasting impact.
And these homeless people in need of our help are people loved deeply by God. They are people just as much as you and me, created by God for a specific purpose to be fulfilled in this life. When we see the homeless in our midst as human—we’re reminded that they’re our neighbors. Helping our neighbors is a common goal we can all get behind, and it’s something Christ calls us to do as His followers:
“The second most important command is this: Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself…”
Let’s work together, no matter our politics, to love our neighbors and help the homeless in our community.