What is “Entitlement” When it Comes to Homelessness?

Commentary by Ramona Turnbull

On January 14th of this year, I attended the first Homeless Congress meeting of the year.  If this is representative of the participation and input for future meetings, I feel the Homeless Congress is going to be very effective in addressing concerns and implementing positive changes with regard to homelessness this year.  We had the pleasure of Councilman Reed attending the meeting, who has been very influential in the past addressing homelessness issues in an effort to make changes to policies effecting the homeless population. 

            There was a lot of information covered, which in turn provided enormous feedback on a number of issues and/or topics. One of which was entitlement.  There were many powerful topics discussed, but this one sparked a nerve in everyone in the room.  The room erupted in multiple responses.  Some were understanding, some sympathetic, some confused, and most got angry. Entitlement among homelessness can provoke a lot of different opinions or views, as well as, emotions.

            How homelessness is and/or should be addressed is a topic that many people have very different views or opinions about.  How homelessness is addressed in the United States in various cities was discussed.  Detroit, Michigan was compared to Cleveland, as well as, other cities that do not provide for the homeless at all and actually have laws in place to keep anyone homeless from sleeping on the streets, eating a decent meal, or having access to resources etc.In fact, in most cities if you are found sleeping on the ground, in a park, or alley way, you can actually be arrested.  In contrast to this, in Vancouver, British Columbia their view is to recognize the “dignity and hope” of every person.  A local charity there, RainCity Housing, created 5 city bus benches “transit benches” that transform into a temporary shelter. 

According to the Wikipedia, the word entitlement is defined as “a government program guaranteeing access to some benefit by members of a specific group and based on established rights or legislation. It is also defined as, “a right is itself an entitlement, associated with a moral or social principle, such that an “entitlement” is a provision made in accordance with a legal framework of a society.  Entitlements are based on concept of principle (“rights”) which are themselves based on concepts of social equality or enfranchisement.”

When rules, policies, etc. are implemented into a program, a shelter, or a training, etc., there is an expectation that these rules will be implemented and followed.  There are expectations about what was promised, how it should be delivered, and there is a human expectation to be treated a certain way.  When this doesn’t happen there is no real structure to correct problems.  This policies are not really worth the paper that they are written on.  Also, without input from, people who live in these policies about what is wrong, these programs do not operate effectively.  The Bible has specific instructions on how children, widows, and the poor should be treated.  This is where “real” entitlements stem from.

 In order to be a strong country, citizens of each city and state in the United States, as a country, must recognize and address the “entitlements” of its citizens.  It is the same for residents in a homeless shelter.  There is an entitlement to be treated like human beings, not criminals.  There is a human expectation to be treated a certain way.  There is a proper way to do everything.  When these entitlements are not properly addressed there will be chaos and negative feedback.  In order to break down barriers to end homelessness, feedback is essential.

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle April 2016 Issue 23.2 Cleveland Ohio