A Matter of Semantics?

Posted: June 22, 2007 in Acceptance, Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness, Misconceptions

Sometimes I can be a real dim wit. But, then again, there are times when that dim wittedness leads to a new understanding of things.

Yesterday someone was talking to me about some of the various things I’ve written in any number of posts I’ve published and asked me how I thought we could "deal" with homelessness. The conversation went on for about 30 minutes until – BAM! – it hit me and a red flag went up deep in the recesses of my mind.  

I realized that it’s not about "dealing" WITH homelessness that we should be concerned about. We should be focusing on trying to FIX the root causes of homelessness.

There are so many different causes of homelessness that trying to correct all of them would require a titan effort. But, there are some causes that we could certainly correct and those are the ones that we should begin with – or least that’s the way I see it. Before we can do that however, we will need to change our attitudes about the homeless.

I believe the reason more isn’t done to address the causes of homelessness is due to our overall societal misconceptions about what homelessness is and what types of people can and do become homeless.

In reality, anyone can become homeless. It doesn’t matter how "good" a person you’ve been, you can become one of our nation’s ever growing number homeless. It doesn’t matter how religious you are – you can become homeless. It doesn’t matter what your ethic group, your gender, your age, your educational background, your political affiliation or any number of other "classes" of people you fit into – you can become homeless. That’s just the reality of it.

There are some factors that may lessen your chance of becoming homeless, but unless you’re so filthy rich that you can throw money away, there is still the possibility that you could become homeless. As for the majority of people who are living paycheck to paycheck – homelessness is a very real possibility.

What creates the stumbling block at reducing the numbers of homeless in our community is that we constantly think in terms of "dealing" with homelessness. Perhaps we should begin thinking about how to "help" the homeless.

If we started asking ourselves how we can "help" the homeless become productive members of the community again, perhaps then, we would be willing to work toward finding effective solutions that will allow the homeless to move beyond the barriers that keep them trapped in a system that seeks only to "deal" with them.

For many, training ourselves to think in terms of "helping" the homeless rather than "dealing" with them it may seem like a matter of semantics – something akin to saying toe-MAY-toes instead of tuh-MAH-toes – but I don’t think so. I think that it’s a matter of giving ourselves an attitude adjustment. I think that it’s about changing the way we perceive what homelessness is all about.

Once we do that we’ve passed the biggest hurdle. After that, the sky’s the limit.

So ask yourself this:

What if you became homeless today, would you want to community to just "deal" with you, or would you want them to "help" you?

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