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The Blind Alley

In mid-August, when I revealed this blog to my friends, we filmed a short introduction video for it and posted it on the blog’s new TikTok account. I had never been an active user of this platform before, but because many had said it is fun and out of curiosity, I decided to give it a try. The content I have scrolled through had music in the background and was very entertaining and humorous. But then I suddenly came across a totally different video. It was quite simple, had no music, and the only person in it was a young girl who wasn’t trying to entertain, but to educate the viewers.

Unfortunately, I do not remember her username, but her 60-second video really stayed in my mind and got me thinking. Having a job is a way to earn money, but the girl exposed that in reality, it is actually vice versa – we need to have some money in advance, in order to get a job. It might seem absurd, but here is what I mean.

Walking in the street, you have probably already seen or been approached by homeless people asking you for change. In my opinion, our society has a prejudice about them, thinking that the only reason why they live on the street and cannot return to normal life is because they have mental health issues or problems with alcoholism or drugs. In some cases, that is indeed true, but I believe that many of them are actually conscientiously trying to escape poverty and become contributing members of society – by getting a job. But they are unable to do so because the system does not let them to. Once they are broke and without a roof over their head, they find themselves in a blind alley, seeing no way out.

So why is it almost impossible for homeless people to become employed? First of all, they have to start looking for a job position. In the world of internet and digitalization, most of calls for application are posted online. Not having any electronic device, they cannot find most of job offerings.

Okay, let’s say they can go to a library and use a computer there, and after surfing on the internet, they find an appropriate working position. Even if they apply for it, these people in most cases wouldn’t even stood a chance because of prejudices. And, even if they get lucky, an employer still cannot invite them to an interview, because the candidates have no phones and are therefore hard to get contacted.

If they somehow still manage to settle on an interview, another issue is how to afford enough proper clothes to dress accordingly – and we should not forget that tidiness is expected not only at the interview, but also at work every day. Of course, tidiness does not refer only to appropriate clothing, but also being clean, which is one of the biggest problems homeless people face, having no place except public restrooms to maintain hygiene. According to Job Today, the most searched jobs include baristas, waiters and kitchen porters, at which meeting hygiene standards is even more important.

Last but not least, how would homeless people be paid wages? In many countries, including Slovenia, the laws regarding employment relations state that it is illegal to get paid in cash, in order to make sure that incomes get taxed properly. This way, employers are obligated to make payments directly to employees’ bank accounts. It is yet another obstacle for homeless people, because the crucial thing you need to open a bank account is – an address of your home, which is the most obvious thing these people lack.

Having a residence is also one of conditions you have to meet in order to receive social transfers (financial support for poorer people) when needed and be eligible for free compulsory health insurance (if your country provides it). That means that although you might live in a welfare country that strives for a wellbeing of its citizens, you will be supported only if having a home. That being said, homeless people do not receive help and are left hungry, without having access to any health care (except urgent medical attention).

Thankfully, there are many non-profit organizations under which employees and volunteers help to satisfy their basic needs by offering free medical examinations and consulting as well as providing them with warm meals and shelter. But this is only a temporary solution that costs a lot of money and unfortunately does not contribute much to reduction of homelessness.

Radical changes can only be achieved by government taking the problem seriously, because it has the power to make much-needed changes in regulations. One possible way to deal with it is to give homeless people a home for free for at least a few months, and to pay them a minimal amount of money needed to cover food and clothing expenses. A country would have to financially support their accommodation and living, which would of course shorten the state’s budget for some amount of money – but the return would be much greater.

Most importantly, these people would have an address of residence, so they would be able to open a bank account and find a job. With a regular salary, they would become financially independent and be able to pay for their flat on their own, so a country would have even more beneficial citizens who pay taxes and contribute to economy’s development.

Another benefit of providing them with safe and warm places to live are also significantly lower costs of healthcare systems. Better living conditions improve their overall health and decrease a number of their visits to an emergency room. Interestingly, in the U.S., a third of urgent care patients are homeless people, and them being healthier would lower the costs of U.S. health care system for a half, according to U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine.

Thinking long-term, it is a win-win for both sides, and it is also amazing how our simple values, like helping and taking care of our fellow men, can be an answer to such complex problems.