About this time each month, regardless of what is happening in my life, I begin to wrestle with the same thoughts and emotions. It’s a time of melancholy because I know that the 8th is just around the corner and it just reminds me that another month had passed. And, with each passing month this journey through homelessness has been extended.
On the evening of 8 November 2005, we stepped foot into the homeless shelter and became part of San Luis Obispo’s homeless community. That was nearly 19 months ago.
At first I thought that it would be a matter of weeks – perhaps a month or month and a half at the most – and we’d be out of there and life would go back to normal. Things didn’t work out quite that way. In fact, it’s dragged out quite a bit longer than I expected it would – and I’m one year and 7 months older.
Since about this past mid-March however, things have begun to turn around. I can see some progress taking place in my life. While the progress isn’t as great or as fast as I would prefer it to be, it is progress nonetheless. And, in the end, that there is some forward momentum is what matters.
There have been a lot of personal struggles that I’ve had to endure – periods of self-recrimination, personal and social embarrassment, emotional confusions and even a bit of self-pity.
There have been good times and bad times. I’ve met good people and not so good people in both the homeless and non-homeless segments of this community. I’ve encountered acceptance and rejection.
Those non-homeless members of our community who are willing to reach out and help the homeless are the minority – and yet they are the ones who make everyday worth the struggle. Among the majority however, are those who view us homeless with indifference and scorn – although I’m not really sure why.
I know that there are homeless who are a pain in the "you-know-where" and homeless who are just out to get something for nothing. But the same could be said for members of the non-homeless. And if you look closely at the general make up of the homeless population you see that they come from all walks of life. Yet, even when you can definitively show that to those who are the most contemptuous of the homeless it doesn’t seem to make a difference in their view of the homeless.
Perhaps it’s because homelessness has been a continuous problem, not only in our community, but through out the nation for so long that people have become jaded and anesthetized to homelessness in general. And, this in turn makes it difficult for the homeless to get the type of help they truly need.
Over the past three months I’ve had the good fortune to meet people who have been presented with homelessness from the perspective of the homeless and have begun to realize that homelessness can indeed happen to anyone. And those who have accepted this truth have become more tolerant of the homeless.
On the other hand I’ve also met quite a few people, who no matter what facts you show to them will continue to think of the homeless as unredeemable and a nuisance. For whatever reasons, they have allowed their hearts to become callous toward the homeless and nothing that anyone or anything can say or do will ever change their perceptions.
One thought that sadly occurs to me is that those who are disdainful and scornful of the homeless will always be the majority.