As a 35-year practitioner, researcher, author, and advocate in the cultural morass known as homelessness, I was very encouraged by two interesting pieces in the October edition of PAW. “What role should extraordinarily wealthy universities like Princeton play in a radically unequal world?” was a question at the end of the article about the classics. Six pages later is a great interview with Matthew Stewart ’85 about the 9.9 percent. Since the nation’s attitudes about and treatment of those experiencing homelessness is one of the most radically unequal aspects of our American culture and psyche, I was grateful to see these two pieces in PAW. Maybe this is an indication that the University is accepting a more direct role in addressing inequality.
Homelessness is a direct result of our fractured humanity and our nation’s broken systems, thus causing true inequality. We treat the unhoused as undeserving, although we who are housed really don’t “deserve” what we are fortunate enough to have. Our housing system is broken; only about 25 percent of those who are eligible for housing vouchers receive them. We also have a deficit of about 8 million housing units for those who are paying over 30 percent of their incomes on housing or who are without housing at all. Our health care system is too costly. Our benefit programs are paternalistic, and don’t reach enough people; only 25 percent of the eligible TANF recipients receive benefits.
Our great University must be playing an even greater role in addressing inequality. There are encouraging signs, but I’d like to see even more.