A lot at stake
“You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”
These are words from 15-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg. Like Greta, whose speech went viral after she spoke in front of the United Nations, we should call out all governments and businesses that are unwilling to fully address the climate change crisis.
Today, we have some of the solutions to beat the race against climate change. What we are lacking are people in critical positions who are willing to implement those solutions before it is too late.
We must demand decisive action in the battle against climate change — because absolutely everything is at stake.
Break the cycle
As a sober female and advocate in the behavioral health field, I hear stories like this weekly. This isn’t my story, but it easily could have been.
I was once a homeless drug addict and alcoholic. Most people assumed that I didn’t want a home and never wanted to work. People assumed that I liked panhandling and begging for enough money to eat a meal while I was on my way to the drug dealer to pick up more drugs to numb the pain of the life that I was living.
People wouldn’t look at me when they passed me on the street. Those who would look at me, scoffed in my direction.
I got sober, but I was still homeless. I got on the waiting list for the one shelter that was in my town, but they had no openings.
Living homeless while attending meetings and therapy and trying to stay sober is no easy feat. It is not for the faint of heart.
Eventually, after several weeks, I got a job. I was so excited to be a contributing member of society. But then I would leave my job and walk back to the doorway in downtown that I called home. I continued in this fashion for two months. The self-esteem that I was gathering from being a productive member of society and paying taxes was beginning to wane. I was cold, and I was wet, and I had no privacy because I had nowhere to live.
People might ask why I was continuing to live homeless. The answer to that is quite simple: I could not afford to put a roof over my head and food in my belly.
Right before my 90 days sober, I gave up and went back to drinking and doing drugs. I lost my job. I went back to being the person that you used to scoff at on the streets.
Six weeks later I tried sobriety again. Once again, I got a job while continuing to be homeless. This time my sobriety lasted less than two months.
This pattern continued in my life for close to two years.
Let’s stop wringing our hands. Everyone benefits from paying a living wage
Society at large wants to solve the homelessness issue. Society at large wants to help addicts and alcoholics get sober. Businesses want consistent and loyal workers. Businesses don’t want homeless people living in their doorways.
There is something society at large and businesses can do about this: Pay people a living wage so they do not have to choose between putting a roof over their heads and food in their bellies.
As a society, we can’t continue to preach about how we want to help people and yet do nothing.
What kind of society forces people to choose between food and shelter? People want to work. People want to contribute to society. People want to pay it forward.
Pay people a living wage for their honest labor, so they can.