Active Listening is a series that unites composers with audiences who care about social justice. The goal of this series is to inspire empathy, educate listeners, and offer steps to actively support each cause. Each composer has chosen to address a social justice issue they feel passionate about, and with each installment, actions which listeners can take are provided. A new installment of this 10-part performance video and interview series will be released on the first Wednesday of each month through September 2019, featuring works commissioned and performed by pianist Lior Willinger. This project has been funded by an award from the Presser Foundation.
This Active Listening installment considers what we can do to help those experiencing homelessness. For an individual enduring homelessness, life expectancy is just 48 years–3 decades shorter than the general population.
“We settle for less; we settle for giving a dollar when we wish we could give warmth and safety. Some of us settle in big furnished houses where the electricity is always on, some settle down when we don’t know where else to go, and some settle in whatever scrap of shelter we can find.” – Ledah Finck
Settle by Ledah Finck
Public policy decisions have failed those dealing with poverty. These decisions have created a severe shortage of affordable housing. Last year, there were almost three times as many extremely low-income renter households than affordable and available rental units. The 2018 Housing Wage was estimated by the The National Low Income Housing Coalition to be $22.10 per hour for a two-bedroom rental home. That’s more than three times the federal minimum wage. To put that into perspective, a minimum wage employee would need to work 122 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom rental home and 99 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom. Lack of affordable health care can also contribute to homelessness when expensive medical bills dry up savings.
So what can we do?
Ledah offers the following:
- Overall, carry compassion towards those who experience homelessness, and consider active gratitude and stewardship towards whatever home and larger community they possess.
- Many non-profit organizations which assist the homeless rely on volunteers and donations. Do some research to find out what organizations in your area are doing good work on behalf of the homeless, and get involved.
- If you’re approached by a homeless person, the advice I’ve been given is to give what you’re comfortable offering, which might just be a smile and a kind word. Those things can go a long way. Otherwise, it helps to know that a night in many shelters costs a few dollars—a level of support that is within many of our means.
For that next brief encounter, just remember that simple kindness always helps.