Should the United States give more Support to the Homeless?
by Ayla Zimanek
Homelessness is an issue that affects many in the United States, especially with the decline in the economy. There are several differing views on this subject depending on an individual’s place in society. Those who are in governing positions are wary of helping those without homes because they do not want to draw more of them to the area. They argue that they do not want a decrease in tourism because of the multitude of those on the streets. There are others that believe the destitute got themselves into the situation and therefore should fend for themselves. In contrast, advocates for helping those in need believe in taking an approach where rehabilitation is offered for those with addictions to give them the opportunity to get back on their feet. The number of poverty stricken is growing in the United States; but what should the country do about it? The following three articles all display the impact of homelessness in cities across America and give differing views of how it should be handled. Silja J.A. Talvi wrote an opinionated article titled “Homelessness is a Serious Problem,” which advocates giving aid to the homeless. There is not a strong appeal to the author’s ethos because she does not have credentials on this topic. Talvi is a freelance journalist based in Seattle, Washington. The intended audience would be readers of the newsmagazine Colorlines (which is based on race and politics), where the article was originally published. The main claim was not directly stated but it was hinted at near the end of the piece. She argues for supplying aid to the less fortunate, especially those who are minorities (Talvi).
Talvi begins by explaining the difficulty of receiving financial aid from the government through the story of Mikala Berbery. The author states that in 2000, one in five Americans were living in homes where they could not earn enough to pay for basic amenities (Talvi). Talvi includes a national survey from the National Low Income Housing Coalition which shows that “nowhere in the U.S. can a minimum wage worker afford fair market rental costs for a modest two-bedroom housing unit” (Talvi). The author then reinforces her point by calculating that a worker needs to earn $13.87 an hour in order to afford it and that the amount would be 269% of federal minimum wage in 2000. She also shows that not only is the unemployment rate increasing, but affordable low-income living is decreasing (Talvi).
Talvi gives New York City as an example: there are 30,000 adults and children in shelters, yet the city is lacking enough beds to house them, punishing those who are living on the streets (Talvi). Darrell Green of Street Outreach Services comments on the number of homeless who are addicted to drugs and alcohol: “This is misery and pain, what you see here; they never learned any other way to deal with that pain” (qtd. in Talvi). Talvi concludes that cities need to include drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers into their programs to make a difference in the lives of the homeless or they will end up back in the streets (Talvi).
Fig 1: This cardboard cutout displays the way Talvi would have us view the homeless.
The author’s appeal to logos is strong. Talvi gives many statistics from credible sources such as the Census Bureau and the National Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project. All of Talvi’s points support her claim for helping the homeless. At the start of the article Talvi appeals to the reader’s pathos by incorporating Mikala Berbery’s story which describes her transition from having a job to becoming homeless and the struggle of trying to support her son. Talvi envelops the reader by describing Berbery’s strenuous search when looking for money from the government and how she kept her son in school while finding a place to live. Talvi ties together her argument with solid facts rather than relying solely on emotion to prove her view. On the opposing end, writer and editor C.J. Carnacchio argues against giving aid to the homeless. His article, “Homelessness is Not Society’s Problem” was originally published in the Michigan Review, a student journal offered at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. There is not much ethos to support Carnacchio because he is simply writing his opinion. He uses unprofessional language when commenting on the stupidity of those believing that homelessness is an issue. His intended audience would be students at the University of Michigan because he uses language easily understood for that age range. Carnacchio clearly states his main claim at the beginning of the piece. He argues that the media has been exaggerating both the number of homeless and “distorting the truth about the roots of homelessness” (Carnacchio). His belief is that homelessness was not an issue until society “introduced the term and labeled it a crisis” (Carnacchio). Carnacchio observes that the majority of those living on the streets were actually the cause of their plight; through either substance abuse, mental disabilities or criminal acts. His conclusion is that they should receive no sympathy. He says that while the media prints that homelessness is the fault of the economy, it is actually the personal responsibility of each individual. Carnacchio also points out that the homeless often turn violent when pedestrians walk past and that it is essential for citizens to not respond to their pleas (Carnacchio). He rationalizes that most homeless choose to live the way they do because they admire the “freedom of the streets” (Carnacchio). This is displayed in Figure 2.
Fig 2: This cartoon promotes the view that the homeless like the lifestyle they have and are not doing anything to get themselves out of it.
Carnacchio’s appeal to logos is weakened by constantly blaming “the media.” He uses qualifiers such as “experts” and “advocates,” instead of giving specific sources for who he is arguing against. He jumps to conclusions and states facts without proper support. The strength of Carnacchio’s appeal to pathos encourages the idea that many of his statistics could be false. He uses vibrant language to intrigue the reader however; it does not effectively support his position. An example of this is when he condemns those in support, calling it the “idiocy of the ‘homeless rights’ movement” (Carnacchio). This portrays an immature writing style. Cristina Silva, a St. Petersburg Times staff writer, displays the neutral argument in “Helping the Homeless is a Juggling Act for City”. Silva’s controversial article states both views held by the city without choosing a side herself. Her view appears credible because she is a columnist who specializes in politics and government; however, she does not have any background in homelessness. She also is a citizen of the town and knows first hand how this issue has affected the city. The intended audience would be the readers of the St. Petersburg Times, who are generally the middle aged and elderly. The main claim to the article is clearly stated throughout the piece as she waffles between showing both sides equally. Silva begins by stating that St. Petersburg is planning on limiting their feeding of the homeless. She explains to the reader that there are multiple organizations that offer food and shelter but many have been refusing aid. The author says that the city has been requesting that church groups stop feeding the homeless in public areas such as the parks because the homeless are taking advantage of their help. Silva states that the city has increased the number of soup kitchens, improved medical programs and increased public storage so the homeless will have more resources; however most have been living on the streets instead (Silva). Mickey Paleologos, the owner of a local restaurant explains, “There are places for them to go, they choose not to” (qtd. in Silva). Silva reports that they have been bursting into restaurants screaming obscenities and making it so that tourists do not wish to come back to St. Petersburg (Silva). Silva states that city officials have been doing their best to deal with this “complicated juggling act” and are frustrated because they have done such a good job providing support for the homeless population that more are coming; resulting in crowded streets (Silva). The author uses a strong appeal to logos when detailing the options available to the homeless and the city of St. Petersburg’s struggle in dealing with it. She uses minimal appeals to pathos, but includes personal witness accounts from citizens of the area.
Fig 3: This cartoon emphasizes the neutral source because it shows how townspeople view large homeless populations.
Though these three sources differ in their opinions, they all demonstrate the profundity of the homeless issue in the community. The most persuasive article was “Homelessness is a Serious Problem” by Silja J.A. Talvi. Her credibility is not completely assured, but she explains her view thoroughly and with solid information to back it up. She also applies the appropriate amount of pathos to pull at the reader’s heart strings without making her argument appear false. Talvi showed me just how bad the issue of homelessness is for our country. It has encouraged me to be in support of giving more aid to the homeless. Carnacchio’s article differs from Talvi’s because if its use of incomplete facts which are mainly supported by qualifiers instead of quoting sources. The cry of the city officials in Silva’s article has weight to it because they are concerned with the multitude of homeless sleeping on the streets and threatening civilians. However, we should be doing as much as we can to support one another, no matter the situation, in these hard economic times.
Fig 1: <http://trendsupdates.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/weingart-homeless1.jpg>
Fig 2: <http://poldraw.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/alcohol-prices2.jpg>
Fig 3: <http://gabrielutasi.com/comic/copyright/gabrielutasi/2008/05/050708
Silva, Cristina. “Helping the Homeless is a Juggling Act for City.” St. Petersburg
Times. St. Petersburg, Florida, 10 Feb 2009. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 7 Oct. 2009.
Talvi, Silja J. A.. “Homelessness is a Serious Problem.” Current Controversies: Poverty and the Homeless. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Web. 7 Oct. 2009.