Tom Rebman, a decorated veteran and middle school teacher, grabbed the attention of many when he took to the streets of Orlando last summer. What started as a summer reading project for his students has turned into a personal mission to raise awareness for a problem that is of epidemic proportions: homelessness. He has spent over 90 cumulative days living on the streets of U.S. cities and he shares those experiences on his Homeless and Hungry Facebook page.
Jerry Jones, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless told CNN,
Skid Row is a 54-block area that has the largest homeless number of individuals in the country. New York City has the largest homeless population, but Los Angeles has the highest unsheltered population in the country, which has led to the destitution you see today.
Rebman met up with another unique advocate for homelessness on Skid Row, Skid Robot. The “guerrilla artist” who brings awareness through street art received some attention last fall for sharing his work through Instagram.
Skid Robot’s website says, “He rambles the streets of ‘Skid Row’ painting dream homes, thought bubbles and imaginary landscapes around the harsh realities of the homeless.”
Last night, the two teamed up to advocate together.
@thomasrebman has been living on the #streets of #skidrow for a few days now and it has been quite the #experience for him. He told me its unlike anywhere else in the country that he has been #homeless in while working on his project. Im glad to have the opportunity to spend time with him and share our crazy stories, beliefs, and struggles. We roamed the streets all night, eventually finding our way to this location where i #painted him a place to rest for the evening…#staytuned for more! #skidrobot x #homelessteacher #helpthepoor#feedtheneedy #savehumanity #compassionisthesolution A photo posted by Skid Robot (@skidrobot) on
Prior to the painting, Rebman interviewed the artist and asked how he justifies his work to his naysayers who frown upon the illegal art. He shared the video of the interview. Skid Robot said it is hard to justify because it’s illegal. He said people often suggest that it should be on canvas or a poster. In reply to those suggestions, he said, “It wouldn’t have the same effect, or wouldn’t deliver the same message. People are attracted [to], if you will, or romanticize, the rebel. They understand what I’m doing has its value for what it is.” He continues,
These mainstreamers that are focusing on the fact that it is illegal art aren’t focusing on the bigger injustice that’s taking place, which is the people who I am doing art around.
That injustice is the extreme poverty faced by over 500,000 people experiencing homeless in the United States, with nearly a quarter of those being children, under the age of 18.
How do we right the wrong?
It’s not with sandwiches. It’s not by passing out blankets. It’s not through handing your spare change to a panhandler. While all those things do help individuals and they provide a bit of comfort, it really is like only treating the symptoms of a disease. It’s not the cure.
Rebman says the solution is simple,
House the homeless.
Yep, that’s it. You end homelessness through literally ending homelessness. It’s called Housing First and a few cities are already doing it.
However, if doing the right thing because it’s the right thing isn’t enough reason; financially, it makes sense, too. Mother Jones reported that it actually costs cities less to provide permanent supportive housing to people living in homelessness than how it is currently done: a cycle of streets, jails, hospitals and then back to the streets.
According to Mother Jones, the cost of caring for a person living homeless on Skid Row is five times as much as providing housing. Nearly $2,900 is spent per month, per person in jails, hospitals and paramedics. In contrast, supportive housing, which decreases the amount of jail time and hospitalization, costs only $605 per person, per month.
Related: These Homeless People Reading Mean Tweets Will Rip Your Heart Out, But There Is More To The Story
Featured image via Facebook