Where Will They Sleep?

by AlexeKantchev on February 22, 2017 - 9:22pm

Living in big cities sometimes mean people do not always notice social issues that are happening right in front of them. Or is it that they just do not want to see them? Looking at their phone to ignore a woman with a Styrofoam cup in their hand, rolling up the window of their car when a man propose to wash the windshield for a few cents, that is how people ignore homelessness. However, looking away will not solve this issue that touches so many men and women around the world. From Quebec to Australia to England, homelessness is an important matter that should be looked through in dept.

Montreal is often described as beautiful city, rich of history and culture. With its amazing outdoor shows during the day and the festive ambiance, this city outstands itself. However, things become a little different at night when 3,016 homeless people need to find a place to sleep (CBC). Indeed, with a consensus made in July 2015, the CBC news, collected data that showed that 44% of the homeless population was born in Montreal. These people are mostly found in Downtown Montreal or near this area. The research however established that there were 10 times less homeless people on the street than predicted (CBC). Even thought the data was collected about 2 years ago, the problem still remains and homeless people need to be helped.

Luckily, in Montreal a few organizations are in place to help people living in the streets to find shelter at least for the night. La Maison Benoît Labre, Refuge Des Jeunes De Montréal, Chez Doris, Welcome Hall Mission and Mission Old Brewery are 5 well rated shelters available in Montreal.  The man in charge of this project, James McGregor, hopes his findings will have an impact and will push people to do something about this issue (CBC).

In other countries, such as Australia, people still ignore the problem. However, they do not look away; they push it. On February 8th, 2017, news.com.au announced that the government now forbids homeless people to “camp in or on any public place” (News.com.au). The government previously forbade people from sleeping on public property if they not have tents or any other kind of temporary shelter. Now, this new law even forbids people who do have this equipment, which means that homeless people are not permitted to sleep in Melbourne at all (News.com.au). This new law is very controversial and citizens have already began to protest against it. Another detail of this law angers the homeless people of Melbourne. With this new law, the police officers can now take away items they would leave in public places without any legal documents that authorize them to do so (News.com.au).

With all of these new rules, homeless people will be forced to go to less secure and accessible places. This means it will be harder for volunteers to reach this community and help them seek help (News.com.au). Even thought the Australian government tried to do something about homelessness, they do not solve the problem; they only push it away, literally.  

Another big city that is also touched by a high increasing rate of homelessness is London, England. With more than 4000 people who have no place to sleep, London has seen its homeless population doubled since 2010 (RT). Some people even believe that only in London, there would be at least 8000 homeless people, which is twice as much as the collected data.  Also called “rough sleepers” these people are mostly from the European Union and camp generally in “doorways, bus shelters, cars, sheds, tents and parks”. Some people blame the Conservative Government for this increase of homeless people since they do not spend money at the right place (RT).

Just like in Montreal, London also have high rated places homeless people can go to to find shelter: St- Mungo’s, Union Chapel, Whitechapel Mission, Ace of Club and Homeless Link. Furthermore, an interesting video was linked to the article, which showed a bit what homelessness is and how it can affect someone (RT).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=160&v=W5kR-iC3gz4

 This issue needs to be considered seriously because no real solutions are in place to help these people. Shelters and laws acts like a Band-Aid but the problem still remains. With an increasing rate all around the world, solutions need to be found to remedy to the situation.

 

Sources:

Montreal

CBC. “Montreal Homelessness Count Finds 3,016 Homeless People in City.” CBC News, 7 July 2015.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/montreal-homelessness-count-finds-3-016-homeless-people-in-city-1.3141007

Australia

News.com.au. “Melbourne Council Bans Homeless from Sleeping in the CBD.” News.com.au, 8 Feb. 2017.

http://www.news.com.au/national/victoria/news/melbourne-council-bans-homeless-from-sleeping-in-the-cbd/news-story/b8dffb185b48fe5c3fd20a56da5c829a

England, London

RT. “Rough Sleeper Numbers Soar across England for 6th Year Running.” RT, 25 Jan. 2017.

https://www.rt.com/uk/375071-rough-sleeping-homelessness-rise/

Comments

First off, great post! I really like how you make your point by contrasting how the situation is dealt with in Montreal versus Melbourne. This issue raises an important ethical dilemma, to resolve it I will focus on deontology and teleology.

From a deontological point of view, morality is derived from maxims, meaning there are universal rules that all should follow and that humans must be treated as an ends in themselves. In that sense, homelessness is an infringement on individual’s right to housing, as declared by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is then the duty of the government to solve this issue, as they are responsible for upholding their citizen’s rights.

From a teleological point of view, the issue is much more complex. Teleology focuses on the outcome of situations; the greatest good for the greatest number. In that sense, some could argue that helping individuals off the street would provide the best outcome. It provides safety and health to the great number of people who live on the streets. However, others could argue that putting up tents and other equipment on public or private property is a public safety issue. This would mean that it has a negative outcome far greater for society as a whole.

I would argue that the deontological perspective is the most appropriate. Not only is the right to housing essential for all, it is linked to a host of other issues such as health, security, etc. Homelessness is also a systematic issue, and individual’s personal circumstances leading to loosing or leaving their homes can be aggravated by the legal and social context in which they live. Therefore, governments should uphold this universal human right, instead of making it harder for people without homes to survive.

Although homelessness today is significantly lower than a few decades ago, it remains a very important issue that affects our communities and society in general. I admire the fact that you highlight various statistics that describe the presence of homelessness in large cities and then link it to Montreal, giving us a grasp of the very important issue that we are dealing with.

In terms of morality, there are many ways of understanding homelessness. From a deontological perspective, which focuses more on the action and not the outcome, ethical rationalists would argue that one is obligated to help homeless people if they were to ask for help because it obeys the categorical imperative. In other words, the action of giving to a homeless person and fighting homelessness is a moral action because if everyone were to do so, the world would be a better and safer place. If one does not show generosity to homeless people, they are therefore being immoral.

However, from a teleological perspective, which focuses more on the outcome of an action rather than the action itself, one might argue that homeless people often use their wealth on harmful products which further entrenches them in their difficult social state. Due to the outcome being potentially harmful, certain teleologists might argue that giving to homeless people is an immoral action. It may cause a greater burden to society than if one were not give anything at all to a homeless person.

Personally, I prefer the deontological perspective of Ethical Rationalism. Being generous and giving to others are without a doubt, moral actions. The world would definitely be a happier place if everyone were to give to homeless people. We as human beings are all equal no matter our social status. Although it may be possible that a homeless person might invest their money in irresponsible ways, that is not of our concern. We can only control our actions, and ultimately, our Self.

I did not know of the way in which Australia has been treating their homeless population before reading this, thanks for the insight! I also side with you in that their efforts are not going to provide any sort of positive change.

You seem to be naturally forming this argument on the basis of ethical rationalism. This is a philosophical approach that attempts to measure morality based on outcome, because, the will to do something determines the outcome. Therefore, a person who has done an action that is considered by society as bad can be seen as immoral.

According to Kant, a distinguished supporter of this framework, there is two types of imperatives which act as instructions. Categorical imperatives are the ones that matter, because that, unlike hypothetical imperatives they give reason to do something. Among the categorical imperatives Kant argues that there exists only one, which is to act on what you can while hoping for it to become a universal law. To exemplify, someone who has an innate gift at birth should use that gift, hoping that others will also utilize their gifts. Furthermore, breaking this imperative will be immoral as you are wishing something negative upon society.

I was not aware about how badly the Australian government is handling the issue of homelessness before reading your post and found it quite interesting but sad as well. I very much agree that this issue needs to be considered a lot more seriously. People can view this issue in many different philosophical perspectives. Therefore, I would like to analyze your philosophical perspective as well as governments.

From an ethical rationalism perspective, right and wrong are determined by people’s actions (Ethical Rationalism, 2017). In the case of homelessness, society is not behaving in an ethical way. The rightful acts would be to make more of an effort to help each other, and to solve this issue. Which is the perspective readers get from your article. However, a virtue ethics perspective is also shown, which argues that to be moral, one needs to behave in the way a virtuous person would; meaning they are selfless, friendly, fair, caring, etc. (Virtue Ethics, 2017)

Yet, the problem with many people in society and with governments, is that they view this issue from a utilitarian perspective, which means do the greatest good for the greatest amount of people (Utilitarianism, 2017). To these people, homelessness is a minor issue, which leads us to understand why governments do not do more for the homeless like in Australia.

In the end, I agree with you a hundred percent that society needs to seriously solve the homelessness issue from a ethical rationalism and virtue ethics philosophical perspective.

Ethical Rationalism, Media Ethics, January 27th, 2017.

Utilitarianism , Media Ethics, February 3rd, 2017.

Virtue Ethics Media Ethics, February 7th, 2017.