Conservatives try hard every day to prove that the “heartless” “uncompassionate” stereotype and rhetoric the mainstream media paints us with is wrong. We tweet, write, and post about how people have the wrong idea about conservatism. We do genuinely care about people and it shows. Conservative counties were found even by the New York Times to donate more to charity, and conservatives are often more connected to church charities and community services. Despite all this though, conservatives often drop the ball when it comes to the way we talk about and handle homelessness in the United States. 

Currently conservative counties across the country, especially those in more urban states, have been legislating on and bringing attention to the homeless communities in their areas. As these stories and debates have made the headlines, us conservatives have shown how homelessness is a topic where we often fall tone-deaf at best and uncompassionate at worst. 

As a movement and party that believes in personal responsibility, it can be easy to throw around the same talking points and generalities that we do for other issues at this one. “There are more jobs than there are people, they can go get one.” “If you want to get out of that situation, you can do it if you just work hard enough.” “I’ve struggled in life and I’m doing just fine.” These are sayings we tweet, post, and mention in debates about general unemployment, social programs, and the American Dream. While these points can be valid in scenarios, they do not take into consideration the extreme obstacles that the homeless community faces in their daily lives and can often make conservatives seem like the out-of-touch privileged stereotypes people paint us to be. 

There are many small things that even those of us who have experienced some level of poverty take for granted and don’t realize are unobtainable for those facing homelessness. It is easy for us to say go out and apply for the many jobs available in our booming economy when we have access to the most basic hygienic products daily, can use public transportation without the threat of being kicked off, and can keep our clothing relatively clean and appropriate for work. It is incredibly difficult for those currently dealing with homelessness to have access to consistent showers, washing machines, work appropriate clothing, and public transportation. Beyond that many jobs also now have virtual applications and want resumes sent in. Once again, something those of that can walk into a public library even without the threat of being kicked out and accused of loitering don’t realize is an obstacle for those living in homelessness. 

Because of these obstacles on top of even just the difficulty of surviving harsh environments and weather without consistent and guaranteed shelter and risk of violence against them, it so often doesn’t matter how badly these individuals want a job and steady income. It can almost feel and be impossible. 

As if that rhetoric we say wasn’t bad enough, we also immediately throw ill-intentions on the homeless. As someone who was raised even in poverty to always give even the very little we had to those in worse situations, if I have cash in my wallet I will give to those on the street asking for money. This point of view is met by liberals and conservatives alike with, “They’re just going to spend it on drugs or booze. You’d be better off buying them food.” I am daring every person who has ever said this to actually pull over the next time you say it and buy the person that fast food meal to prove you mean it. Because too often people use that as an excuse to continue to go on and ignore the suffering of their fellow people. 

We, as conservatives, don’t need to think that government is the answer to fixing homelessness in this country. Because it’s never been and never will be. But that doesn’t mean that we should ignore, shame, and dismiss the genuine suffering and obstacles that our fellow Americans are facing in our wonderful country. Acknowledging that it can be almost impossible to get out of these situations alone without help, can help bolster and grow the private charities that are trying to do their best to help. Private hair salons, small stores, and shop owners are working to help people have access to hygienic products, haircuts, clothing for work, and transportation. By acknowledging the obstacles people who are homeless face, we can ensure these private charitable citizens are getting the resources and help they deserve to do even better work. 

No one in this country wants to be homeless, no one wants to live in fear and hunger never knowing if they will survive a cold night and wake up the next morning. We are so blind to the all the privileges we as Americans have even if we live in relative poverty that we can so easily not think about the people in this country that feel forgotten and uncared for. As conservatives who are compassionate and care about our fellow human beings, we should do better on what we say and how we think about the homeless community in this country. Let’s do better and make sure no one in this country feels forgotten and uncared for.

Stormi R