The Homeless Trap

   abigail_adams-deskFROM OUR DESK



November 27, 2018


As Oregon economy is growing, so is the homeless. Unemployment is at an all-time low, still homelessness increases. What are we to make of this? There doesn’t seem to be a link between this cause and effect as politicians would have us believe. Homelessness is sure to be an issue in the next legislative session. There are many nonprofits doing excellent work helping homeless to obtain jobs to get their lives back on track. The Salem Men’s Mission has plans to double their beds and increase dining capacity from 84 to 200. Government needs to make it easier for nonprofits to work their miracles.

A homeless couple recently moved out of Portland because it was too dangerous. They said in downtown Portland the threat to the homeless was coming from other homeless people. The number of people experiencing homelessness from the Oregon Housing and Community Services 2017 count was 13,953. Forty-three percent or 5,986 were sheltered, and 57% or 7,967 were unsheltered. Fourteen percent of all homeless people in Oregon have a serious mental illness, 12% have substance abuse disorder, and 79 died in the Metro area at an average age of 45.

The issue isn’t a lack of housing. Bill Guthridge posted a conversation he had with a person who had been homeless for 10 years. He asked him what one thing we could do to help. It wasn’t the expected “more shelters”, “more beds”, “more services”, “more donations”, etc. He said, “Enforce the law.” “The bottom line with them was that our jails have become mental institutions, our parks have become dangerous campgrounds, our cities have become open sewers, and our assistance programs have become excuses to continue the lifestyle. They said that there are many ways out of homelessness but the person has to want to exit and do the work needed.”

An interesting experiment may help to explain why people sink into despair becoming homeless and even violent. It isn’t the answer nor does it apply to all homeless, but it does provide some understanding of positive and negative effects on the mind and the slow death of expectation where dreams die and complacency sets in.

A pair of psychologists from the University of Michigan conducted a fascinating study that sheds light on the fear of loss. Volunteers wore electrodes while they engaged in a computer-simulated betting game. Researchers analyzed their brains’ electrical activity in response to winning and losing. The betting game allowed subjects to place either a five or twenty-five cent bet, and after they made their selection, the box they checked turned green or red, indicating whether the bet was added to or subtracted from their winnings. With each bet, the medial frontal cortex in their brains showed increased electrical activity within a matter of milliseconds. But what intrigued the researchers was that medial frontal negativity showed a larger dip after a loss than the rise in medial frontal positivity after a win. In fact, during a string of losses, medial frontal negativity dipped lower with each loss. So each loss was compounded by the previous loss. Researchers came to a simple yet profound conclusion: “losses loom larger than gains.” In other words, the aversion to loss of a certain magnitude is greater than the attraction to gain of the same magnitude.

It may help explain why so many people live their lives so defensively. Think of how many negatives a homeless person has gone through to become homeless and how devastating that must be that they would lash out at their fellow mates.

Where does the negative thinking come from that leads people into a helpless downward spiral? Some lose jobs, some lose their families, and some lose their health, and some just couldn’t get their life started on a positive track, but all are influenced by a negative pattern that may lead to addictions.

Look at the socialistic agenda that our schools are teaching our children. They are being taught that society owes them something. With no effort on their part, society owes them a job, food, shelter, the right to be heard, the right to be rude, the right to show disrespect, and the right to brake laws. With that kind of mindset, when young people get out into the real world, they are already on a downward spiral facing reality. There are 1,731 unaccompanied homeless youth, which increased 14% in two years. 

Is it any wonder that we have school shootings lashing back at negatives? Is it any wonder that our homelessness is increasing even amid economic gain?

Donna Bleiler, State Coordinator
Oregon Abigail Adams