Homelessness is not just a housing problem — it’s a lack of compassion, Inman founder Brad Inman writes. But a blueprint exists thanks to successful animal rescue efforts: Bring the homeless into our homes.

This fall, I had a painful personal experience with a family member that forced me to confront the issue of homelessness. As a journalist, I wrote about affordable housing and examined the homeless issue from time to time, but from 30,000 feet.

The recent situation was closer to home.

Some of you will scroll on when you read that this post is about the homeless. I get it, but hang with me for three minutes.

If I was writing about stray puppies, your reaction might be different.

Dog rescue is bigger than ever, with people all over the world saving needy animals. Whether it’s a scroungy dog in frigid weather or an abused puppy in a shelter, people rescue and adopt abandoned animals.

Public opinion about stray dogs changed more than a decade ago, when people no longer viewed them as a nuisance, but more as an opportunity to do good. Everyone I know who has adopted a rescue has benefited from their benevolence, including a psychological lift. They are eager to tell their friends and families about their good deeds, which motivates others to do the same.

No one blames the animals for their plight.

With the homeless, we are cold hearted, viewing it as a self-inflicted condition and as a health hazard. True on both accounts in many cases.

The homeless are considered dangerous, even inhuman  — creating a seedy underbelly that we expect the government to clean up and get rid of. Out of sight, out of mind.

We have no “people rescue” program. We are OK with stuffing the homeless in marginal shelters like we did with stray dogs, before animal rescue came into the picture.

The problem was not a shortage of dog pounds, just as homelessness is not just a housing problem.

It is a lack of compassion. 

We are solving the abandoned dog problem by the actions of caring people, not by stumbling government efforts. Couldn’t we solve the problem of abandoned people in the same way?

We have a blueprint, thanks to our successful efforts with animals, for rescuing human beings. Bring them home.

In the U.S., 550,000 people are homeless. I am certain an equal number of individuals or families might consider taking some of them in, if the circumstances were right. Not everyone adopted a stray dog, but enough to solve the problem.

Many homeless people will not want to move into a strange home, but many will.

A place to start may be on-ramping alcohol and drug-free homeless people who are committed to recovery. The mental health issue is trickier but solvable. Stray dogs are not all cuddly creatures.

In the late 1990s when we ended welfare, companies received a $5,000 tax credit for hiring people who came off welfare. I hired 10, two of whom were promoted and continued working for me at other companies.

I remember explaining to one woman what a lunch break was. She became a reliable employee. 

Investing in people pays off, and seemingly intractable problems can be solved.

Email Brad Inman

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