“After several speakers told city officials that they wanted the homeless to be forced to leave, one man drew particularly loud applause when he hinted at violence:

“We’re all armed,” he told officials. “Maybe we should take our city back.”

This excerpt is from a recently published article on the way that compassion for the un-housed community is running out among parts of the housed community in Southern California. Meanwhile, in other cities throughout the United States, levels of violence toward the homeless are rising, a growing number of city leaders are making it a crime to be homeless, and a lack of affordable housing puts an ever-greater number of people at risk of homelessness or keeps already un-housed individuals from being able to access housing.

Many towns and cities all over the country face significant challenges in garnering the resources and capacity to meet the needs of every resident. The reality of these challenges, however, is no excuse for throwing our homeless neighbors under the bus or considering their needs to less important than those of more powerful or well-established community members.

The frustration expressed by the California residents in the previously mentioned article reflects the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude. Homelessness is a problem that no community wants to have to deal with, and so the NIMBY approach tackles homelessness by pushing it out of sight or attempting to send homeless individuals away – whether to prison or to another location. A NIMBY mindset is evident in recent news stories about bans on feeding the homeless in Houston or the statewide sit-lie ban that was proposed in Hawaii.

While it is reasonable that communities should feel frustrated and overwhelmed by the growing number of homeless men, women, and children throughout the country, our frustration should stem from empathy and deep compassion for the individuals who are experiencing homelessness, rather than from irritation at the inconveniences we may face as a consequence of the existence of homelessness in our neighborhoods.

What mindset can we adopt instead? Other community members in California and throughout the country are spreading the YIMBY (YES In My Back Yard) movement as an alternative to the negativity and anger associated with the NIMBY approach. While YIMBY advocates also encounter frustration and discouragement, their movement centers on taking ownership over the challenges that accompany homelessness and taking responsibility to do whatever they can to alleviate the struggles of the un-housed. YIMBY groups advocate, among other things, for more affordable housing and for community development and planning that does not exclude or privilege any group over another.

Today, November 13th, we celebrate World Kindness Day. Wherever you live, and whether or not you are part of a YIMBY organization, you can choose kindness and compassion in the way that you talk about homelessness and the individuals who are experiencing it.

There are innumerable ways that you can stand up for and support your un-housed neighbors! For just a few ideas of how to do so during this week of Hunger & Homelessness Awareness, check out the National Coalition for the Homeless’ list of ways to get involved. Ending homelessness is the responsibility of each and every one of us. Today, choose kindness and choose a YIMBY attitude, because only with compassion and collaboration can we end homelessness.