“Homelessness is not normal”: powerful TED talk from Street Roots director

At the end of World War Two, Street Roots Executive Director Israel Bayer points out, street homelessness was largely non-existent in America.

Yet hundreds of thousands of people will sleep rough in the USA tonight.

What happened?

Israel Bayer introduces the TEDxPortland audience to James, who died on the streets in Portland

In the powerful talk – delivered at TEDxPortland last month and made available online this week – the long-time activist tracks the journey of homelessness in his country and looks ahead to how the problem might be tackled.

“Poverty is not new, but modern-day homelessness is,” he argues. “Today, homelessness in America is at an all-time high. It’s a national disgrace.”

In his presentation, Israel introduces us to James – one of the 56 people who died homeless on Portland’s streets in the last year. His mother told Israel that people may have just seen James as “just another homeless junkie… but he had an incredible heart.”

“Sometimes I find myself having an out-of-body experience,” Israel adds, “standing looking down on an illogical situation on the streets – a mother with a young child sleeping under a bridge, an elder in a doorway, a family that’s just become homeless begs me to help them find housing.”

There are four key points to the solution, Israel argues: the next president must make make ending homelessness a top priority; the introduction of a homeless bill of rights; new policies to support renters from mass evictions and help curb high rental costs; and new revenue to support giving vulnerable people housing.

For the full story, watch Homelessness In America: The Journey Home by Israel Bayer below.