- Child welfare systems: Chronic underfunding, overwhelming caseloads and a crying need for services interfere with our ability to really help those who desperately need intervention and support. Our system damages the very families it tries to help.
- Addiction recovery: Much of the excessive imprisonment in our country is related to addictions to alcohol and other drugs. Our punitive system doesn’t fund the way out of this cycle. Do we want it to continue? Or do we deeply believe that some people who are addicted to substances don’t really deserve to be helped?
- Homelessness–affordable housing: When we have many citizens living on the streets, it is an indication of a lack of care in our world. There are as many reasons for homelessness as there are people who are suffering. Sometimes the people who are without a roof over their head are working. However, wages can be very low, and inexpensive housing is rare.
- Job readiness training: Many times people do not learn basic job skills in their formal education. Without a caring person to teach the basics, young people falter and have difficulty holding a job. A cycle of unemployment, disenchantment, and negative behavior will ensue. We have to find a way for people caught in that negative spiral to find a way out.
- Healthcare access: Our current system has made some impact. However, a large segment of people cannot afford to pay the premiums for the insurances that are available. They have no recourse for consistent health care.
- Mental health recovery: There are many things that can help people who experience life in a way that does not serve them. Depression, bipolar disorder, addictions, and schizophrenia all are treatable conditions. Access to help is lacking. We need to let go of the stigma that surrounds mental health issues and create ways to surround people with the healing power of love.
- Immigration issues: How can we address the practical negative impact of people crossing borders and working without documentation? The impact is not just on our economy, it is that these people often work with none of the protection of legal safety practices. They are vulnerable to unscrupulous employers who take advantage of the fear associated with their legal status. This issue is negative all the way around. The narrative that undocumented aliens must be sent back to the home country is too simplistic.
- Educational deficits: There are schools that are failing to teach people to read and compute basic math. What can we do to support the school and the students to make absolutely certain that each child becomes literate to the basic skills of survival in the 21st century?
- Drug dealing-using culture: Criminalization of drugs has created a culture of predatory dealers, people wrapped up in addiction and a violent response to life. How can we enter in and address the factors that contribute to this ongoing issues.
- Massive incarceration of people. Our system of mandatory sentencing, get tough on crime, and zero tolerance coupled with the “War on Drugs” have increased the number of prisoners in our country. The result is massive expenditure on imprisonment, cutting funding on recovery issues, cutting other programs. Not to mention that we have put a large portion of a generation of parents behind bars. The price paid by the children and families and communities is tremendous.
It’s disheartening to list all of these huge, interconnected problems. Ugh. Closing my eyes and pretending that these issues have nothing to do with me is so tempting. It would be easy to think that my most pressing concern is the interest rate on my Visa. What I experience day to day in working with the population whom I serve is that these issues are present and have a tremendous impact on the lives of real people in our communities. And I know that what touches your life touches my life. We are all connected.
These issues can be impacted by policy decisions in the government offices. However, the government cannot mandate the heart to love people who experience these challenges. The government cannot meet the soulful needs for respect and hope and the belief that things can change. The greatest need we have in our communities is for people who are not experiencing these issues to stop looking down on people who need help.
What do you think? Are these the biggest domestic problems we face? What direction do you think we need to take?