Why Don't They Just?

“Why don’t they just get a job?”

“Why don’t they just move into housing?”

“Why don’t they just get out of our space?”

“Why don’t they just get out of our sight?”

Why don’t they just? Why don’t you just? are regular questions in our human service work. There is often an idea that changing one’s situation, or circumstance, is as easy as simple human will. However, if change is that easy, why don’t we just do it?

The power of hope is an amazing catalyst for change for both individuals and communities. When there is hope, which we measure, there is a greater likelihood of change. Seems obvious to most, right? If you want to increase change, then you have to increase hope. But how do you increase hope: share good stories, show a different way of life, or promise we will not have to do it alone? Yes. Yes. And Yes. Hope can be increased. But be careful, hope can be despairing when hope is not realized.

Why don’t you just? Is actually a question that a community struggles with more than an individual. For example, there are national best practices for life navigation data that can streamline persons displaced to the streets to housing solutions but Nashville does not maximize the opportunity. There are evidenced-based practices of how to move our most vulnerable neighbors into housing at a cost-savings to taxpayers but policymakers are slow to share the burden of housing that they collectively created. Around the country, health care respite homes are decreasing the number of persons dying alone on the streets. In progressive cities, quality of life processes are reducing the regular weekly rotations of police and jail through justice that connects mental health services, addiction services, and housing opportunities for their neighbors.

“Why don’t they just…?” is a fair question. If the evidence is solid and the paths are clear, why don’t communities just acknowledge our collective responsibilities to our neighbors? Or, why don’t communities save themselves money and increase their own quality of life by helping their neighbors with theirs?

I contend it is the fundamental attribution error. When I do something right, it is because I am pretty awesome and work hard. When you do something right it is because you are pretty lucky and a privileged position. When I do something wrong, it is likely that someone else messed me up. When you do something wrong, it is pretty likely your fault and you should live with it.

What if we change the conversation a bit? What if we just… so others can too?

If we as a community do not have the power of hope, the will or the commitment of resources to create our own community quality of life, then how do we judge the persons in our community who follow our lead? 

Thankfully, there is power in hope. The Salvation Army has been serving alongside our neighbors in that power since 1890. We will continue to fight for good. Let’s create more new stories. Let’s create more new opportunities. Let’s fight together for peace, safety, and happiness for all of our Tennessee neighbors.

Let’s help those living on our streets stop asking…

“Why don’t they just?”

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Major Ethan Frizzell serves as the Area Commander of The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army has been serving in Middle TN since 1890. A graduate of Harvard Kennedy School, his focus is the syzygy of the community culture, the systems of service, and the lived experience of our neighbors. He uses creative abrasion to rub people just the wrong way so that an offense may cause interaction and then together we can create behaviorally designed solutions to nudge progress. Simply, negotiating the future for progress that he defines as Quality of Life in Jesus!

Misty Ratcliff