Extending Minnesota nice to the homeless

Students need to know that homelessness is not caused only by poor decisions.

Sept. 22 marked the first day of autumn. For many University students the only significance of the fall season is the start of school and football, but for the thousands of homeless in Minnesota it means something entirely different. For them the colder temperatures signal that they must begin their migration to warmer climates or prepare for the unforgiving Minnesota winter.

In the coming colder months students are sure to see an increase in the amount of people asking for money on the street. For “poor” university students it is all too easy to pass these people without so much as a second glance.

The homeless become part of the urban landscape like a stop sign or garbage can. Society blames them for their own misfortune and treats them like burdensome objects.

Some cities take it even further and strip them of their First Amendment ights. Places like Orlando, Fla., and Raleigh, N.C., don’t allow people to ask for money without a permit without the threat of fines.

In Minnesota there are an estimated 4,000 chronically homeless people who live here year-round. This number is growing with the continued lack of affordable housing in the area and the simultaneous increase in poverty. This is to say nothing of the eroded livable-wage work opportunities, decline in public assistance and lack of affordable healthcare.

The homeless are disproportionably affected by mental illness and addiction. If these illnesses were treated, many would have the potential to be just as productive as any other citizen.

There are many things students can do besides give money. Volunteering at homeless shelters – which are not open during the day – donating used clothing to Goodwill, and food to the Salvation Army are just a few.

When the long, cold winter nights come students would do well to remember that there is very little indeed separating themselves from the homeless.