On Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Sunday, homlessness was the main topic of discussion where the host concluded that one of the biggest problems surrounding the issue is the public’s perception of the homeless. And Oliver pointed a finger at former President Ronald Reagan, saying that on top of cutting programs for the poor and slashing housing subsidies by 75%, he did a lot of damage with the perception that he helped create.
Oliver played a clip from an interview from Good Morning America in 1984, in which Reagan inferred that those who are homeless, were homeless by choice.
“And that notion — that homelessness isn’t related to economic policies, but simply reflects the problems of the individuals experiencing it — still informs the way it’s discussed today,” Oliver said.
And with homlessness having increased in the United States over the past four consecutive years, Oliver looked at a more recent example of someone who is hurting the perception: Dr. Drew Pinsky. Oliver played a clip of Pinsky saying that blaming homelessness on the housing crisis in Los Angeles is “a hoax,” and that homelessness is strictly a mental health and addiction issue. Which Oliver said is a dangerous generalization.
“Yes, many who are homeless do struggle with both those things, and those people are often the most visible, but by no means all of them,” Oliver said. “Also, in many cases, those struggles can be the result of being homeless and not the cause of it.”
And while Oliver admits that fixing the problem will take a massive commitment in infrastructure, funding and resources, especially because the pandemic recession could cause chronic homelessness to increase 49% over the next four years. But he said that there are still a lot of people, liberals included, who believe that homelessness is a personal failing. And he said the first step in fixing it is changing that perception.
“Basically, we need to stop being d****s and assuming that the unhoused are a collection of drug addict criminals who’ve chosen this life for themselves,” Oliver said. “Instead of people suffering the inevitable consequences of gutted social programs, and a nationwide divestment from affordable housing.”
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