As I sit here, with four walls facing me, and a ceiling suspended above, my privilege in this world is unveiled. I’ve never had to fear where I will sleep the following night, search for a place to bathe nor go hungry because of food scarcity. I am never lacking in my basic human needs — for this I am exceedingly grateful. I am exceedingly privileged.
I wish that adequate shelter, food and water was not a privilege but rather a social right. However, I’ve come to recognize that wishing for something to change has the inverse effect. To many, being able to sleep in a bed with warm covers in the dead of winter is not a privilege; to more, having to go without an AC in the summer is the worst possible scenario. However, privilege is not the advantages you have over others nor the personal disadvantages you face. Privilege is the absence of fearing a breaking point due to systematic oppression.
The motel program helped ease this impending fear for nearly 2,000 Vermonters. And whilst many of them are setting up tents and sleeping on the streets, Gov. Phil Scott’s administration who motioned to end the program are safely in their beds. To this I say it is easy to make decisions when you are not the group affected by them. Just as it is easy to pass judgements when you, yourself, can’t empathize with someone else’s situation.
Although I do not know any homeless individuals personally, I still strongly believe that ensuring all Vermonters have safe and affordable housing is of the utmost importance. As we approach the unpredictable Vermont winter, many will be out on the streets, again. Furthermore, the extension of the program as is is not enough. There are still 1,000-plus people who exited in July who will still be left without a secure home base. The extension has to be for everyone and until federal FEMA money runs out, we cannot accept half measures.
Why are we delaying action? For what, to save money, or to promote a better solution that hasn’t been drafted yet?
The truth of the matter is that there is no savings when people are denied their human rights.