Homelessness in my home town

A Roma woman with her dog in a street of Rome.

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Anyone who knows me well, knows that I believe we all have an obligation to help people who are less fortunate.  I like to think I do my fair share, but an incident on the way in to work yesterday has me reconsidering whether or not I do enough.

When Donna and  I were walking up to the front door of the store yesterday morning, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a little movement over in the cart area. When I looked directly toward that area, I was surprised to see a guy peering at us from under the cover of a sleeping bag.  It kind of startled me, to say the least.  I’ve known, for a long time, of a homeless kind of village off in the woods behind one of the nearby shopping centers, but had never really seen anyone sleeping on the sidewalk in our part of town.  As I thought about it, I realized we’d had some storms roll through over night and the man was probably just trying to find a dry place to sleep.  He also probably assumed that no one would be around until at least 9 am, since most of the stores in our strip open at 10 am or later on Sunday.  I wonder if he was as surprised to see us as we were to see him?!

Our town has a multitude of homeless shelters and services to help people overcome the issues that lead to homelessness.  With the terrible economy of the past several years, you can understand how someone could become temporarily homeless.  But there are also the chronic, long-term homeless people.  I often hear people ask why they just don’t get a job.  But how easy is that if you don’t have an address or a phone when you go to apply for a job?  Or proper clothes?  Or a way to clean up?   And many of the people who fall in to the category of the long-term homeless are also dealing with other serious issues such as addictions or various forms of  mental illness.  I’m glad I live in a city that’s progressive enough to make concerted efforts to help those in need, but what can be done about the people who aren’t willing to avail themselves of the proffered help?  If they only cause discomfort to others (by virtue of simply being homeless and on the street) and no real harm, can we force them to accept help?  I can’t see how we can as long as we continue to believe in individual rights and freedom.

I don’t know what the solution is for the people who have to deal with these problems, but I feel profound sadness for them.  Yesterday’s near encounter with a homeless man left me wondering what else I can do to make life a little easier for people who don’t have the comfort of a roof over their heads, a bed to sleep in, running water to drink and bathe in, heat in winter and air conditioning in the summer.  I donate food and toiletries to the food pantry, but is that really enough?

8 Responses

  1. Enjoyed your thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

  2. Love the blog….. It’s a situation you can’t fully understand until it happens to you. Unfortunately, more people are just one paycheck away from it happening to them, they don’t even realize it until it happens. Several years ago in my home city, a man was found frozen in a dumpster, by the garbage man. He had crawled in there to avoid the snow and storm of the night. A few years later, just a few short years ago, I found myself stopping at rest areas on my way to and from Trade shows. Noticing several repeat vehicles – that didn’t seem to be ‘going’ anywhere…. My family took on a mission with me to “camp” out at the rest area and ‘find out’ what was up? Honey – there were 74 families homeless living there! and each had a different story as to why and how and what. Losing a job – house – death of a mate – loss of a child – health issues – lacking health care insurance – Many people are put on the road to homelessness by the factors and elements of life – not by a drug or alcohol addiction or pure lazyness…… Then – once they are there – now people ‘look down’ on you and many degreed professors have found themselves unable to gain work, as well as the average humble person. Once you are without – society disqualifies you terribly…. Many are awaiting and fighting for approve to social security for disabilities…. They can’t work, can’t pay rent or the mortgage, they can’t afford an attorney and the ones’ for social security – is a bit of a racket and the system and the attornies gain, while the injured person, suffers homelessness and other ailments waiting years, yes years = to ‘win’ only 75% of their entitled benefits and now a few years of all this suffering and their health has failed, so ‘enjoying’ the benefits doesn’t always happen. Many turn into alcoholics while being homeless as a way to cope. Self esteem depression and other mental health factors plague onto the previous circumstances and stresses that led them there in the first place. If you didn’t have family and friends and lost your job – where would you be? We so often ‘don’t see’ what’s really going on… Donations to food banks are great, shelters – ok…. How bout petitioning Social Security to give people their entitled benefits and stop the attorney scam that only makes the government and the attorneys gain – That would probably eliminate 33% of the homelessness going on out there…. .

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful and thought provoking comments, Mindy. It is such a sad situation for anyone to find themselves in. So many of us don’t do anything to help simply because we don’t know where to begin. Your comments explain several ways we can help.

  3. Homelessness breaks my heart. There are way too many families in this situation these days. We must care, pray, and give. I’m not sure what else there is to do, except when it’s one’s own family in need. Then, we go the extra mile. Blessings to you…

  4. It’s obvious from your post you’ve put a lot of thought into this issue. I think what you did by posting (drawing attention to the issue and making points some people maybe haven’t considered) is one more thing that can be done. No one person can solve the issue. Each one of us can take steps to alleviate the suffering, I believe.

    Where I live the homeless are treated with a disdain that is shocking to me. There are no homeless people because they are either hauled to the state line or locked up. I’ve even heard the people who the run churches where I live refer to the homeless as “yellow dogs.” When I asked what that meant I was told a yellow dog is a dog nobody wants. I disagree. Every person deserves dignity.

    • oh, the yellow dog comment is so sad…especially coming from people involved in a church program that’s meant to help people…I do love that my city does what it can to alleviate suffering and help people, people out in the rural areas complain that we’re too liberal here in the big city, but I just believe in doing what we can to help others…who knows when the shoe may be on the other foot…

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