The right to housing in the United States: Everyone deserves a home

Michael Townsend sings to a crowd of homeless and low income people at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Houston Street, where members of the Woodland Park Baptist church and other local church-
es bring food and supplies for those who need it on a weekly basis. Donations from various businesses, such as Walmart and Food City, provide food and clothing. “I want them to reach Christ Jesus,” Townsend said
regarding why he sings. Sunday, November 7, 2021. (Photo by: Xander Ordinola)
Michael Townsend sings to a crowd of homeless and low income people at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Houston Street, where members of the Woodland Park Baptist church and other local church- es bring food and supplies for those who need it on a weekly basis. Donations from various businesses, such as Walmart and Food City, provide food and clothing. “I want them to reach Christ Jesus,” Townsend said regarding why he sings. Sunday, November 7, 2021. (Photo by: Xander Ordinola)

Most consider the month of November and Thanksgiving as a time to practice gratitude and thankfulness, and for many, a time to participate in community volunteer work. While service and practicing thankfulness are certainly positive contributions, they are short-term provisions that fail to solve larger problems that America faces, such as homelessness. 

As reported by the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, 4,000 individuals living in the Chattanooga area experience homelessness each year, with the number of homeless families increasing by a rate of 300% in the past few years. The homeless issue remains a national and local trend, which continues due to leading causes of insufficient income and lack of affordable housing, as stated by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty

The root of this issue truly lies in the inability of Americans to afford housing. People who work minimum wage jobs on a full-time basis can’t even afford a one-bedroom apartment in 93% of U.S. counties, as reported by CNN in reference to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual “Out of Reach” report. So, this issue begs the question: Should the U.S. guarantee the right to housing? I say, absolutely, yes. 

In 1944, President Roosevelt introduced the U. S. to the right to housing in his “Second Bill of Rights,” in which he said, “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Among these are … the right of every family to a decent home.”

I don’t foresee many debating the idea that everyone should have the ability to live in the comfort of a home. But, many oppose the idea of government-guaranteed housing, considering the proposal too expensive. Yet, the right to housing doesn’t insist that a house should be built for each American for free. Instead, it compels the government to provide enough resources and guidelines for public housing to be available and adequate. This idea is not radical or absurd; the United Nations considers housing a fundamental human right, and 108 states have ratified or acceded to this idea, as in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Government should not simply work for just some citizens in our society. Everyone should have access to necessities of life, like housing, to pull themselves out of the endless cycle of poverty. As said in an article written by The Appeal, “Whether it’s housing or clean air, there is a threshold for humanity that is so important that it’s beyond the reach of profit. The right to a house should not be predicated on the money in one’s pocket and the government’s role must be to secure this right.”

Above all, as followers of Christ, we are called to take care of those who are less fortunate. Proverbs 14:31 says, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

Many enjoy serving others at this time of year––which is a great way to practice gratitude and give back to the community. But instead of giving ourselves a pat on the back for spending a few hours ladling soup, maybe reconsider what other ways you can be an ally to those less fortunate. 

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