After a fall semester studying in Cordoba, Argentina, Elizabeth Blum ’14 witnessed many instances of poverty and was determined to learn more about the subject.
“I was shocked at the manner in which the city treated its citizens who lived in poverty,” Blum says. “I came back to the United States wanting to understand how we deal with the same issues, whether we dealt with them in the same way. Homelessness is one of the United States’ dirty-laundry issues, very prevalent yet never discussed. I wanted to draw that out into the open.”
Blum graduated a semester early in December with a double major in global studies and politics and government. In her seminar research, she explored the anti-homeless policies in American cities.
“There are different ways of legislating homelessness, one addressing the issue itself, and the other addressing the visible symptoms, or homeless individuals,” she says. “My focus is on these types of policies that address only the symptoms. I wanted to explore what motivates cities to take harsh action against their homeless populations.”
Through her research, Blum says she learned there was no difference between American cities and Cordoba, except for the fact that the United States is better at legislating. “The most interesting find had to do with political leaning of the cities,” she says. “One might expect that more liberal cities would have less harsh laws on homelessness, probably involving more welfare-type programs. However, my findings suggest that the political leaning of the city does not have an effect on the types of laws enacted. Whether conservative or liberal, a city may have harsh anti-homeless laws that target individuals, rather than the issue as a whole, in an attempt to ‘clean’ the streets.”
Blum says that homelessness is a serious problem and quite a prevalent issue. “A wonderful and very close-to-home example is the fire (in downtown Ripon in December) and those who find themselves without their homes after,” she says. “The town has since come together to provide these people with the emotional and physical support they need.”
Every citizen has the ability to improve the situation of homelessness, and it is a dynamic issue that should never be far from our minds, Blum says. “It affects our neighbors, both in our town and our country.”
-Tsering Yangchen ’14
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