The Way I See It…

Posted: July 7, 2007 in Homelessness, Money

I’ve met quite a number of San Luis Obispo’s homeless over the last 20 months. Some are just folks who have hit financial hard times through loss of employment; as a result of personal injury that left them incapacitated for a period of time; women with children who are fleeing domestic violence and those who have emotional or psychological disabilities.

Then there are the chronically homeless.  

Some of the chronically homeless in SLO have been homeless most of their adult life. A number of them are receiving some type of government aid and, while this makes it possible for them to find a place of their own they choose to remain homeless.

One of the reasons they are homeless is that many of them have drug or alcohol addictions. Because of these addictions, they have chosen a life of homelessness in order to have more money to spend toward their addictions.

One such homeless man I know receives a "disability" check each month of about $900. Rather than spend any of his money toward anything that will help him get out of a homeless lifestyle, he chooses to spend all of his disability check on drugs and depend on the homeless support service agencies for meals, showers and so on.

I have no problem with how a person spends his or her money – it as, after all, theirs to do with as they choose. It does seem to me, however, that it is persons like this – who have learned how to abuse the system – make it more difficult for those who find themselves homeless due to circumstances beyond their control because it causes the public in general to view the homeless as lazy and unwilling to do whatever is necessary to get ahead in life.

Moreover, these persons are costing the U.S. taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars each year – tax dollars that could be spent helping those homeless who truly want to make something of their lives. And, because, these chronically homeless are the ones who usually make the headlines, many Americans think that all of the homeless are the same. In the meanwhile those who want to do something productive with their lives are the ones who can’t seem to get any type of help.

What’s wrong with this picture?

It seems to me that if a person is homeless and receiving some sort of government assistance, there should be some rule or regulation that mandates that their money be handled by some type of "executor" – a person or agency that would make certain that their money is being spent for housing, food, clothing and anything else except drugs or alcohol.

I’m sure someone is going to say that such a rule or regulation would take away a person’s individual freedom and infringe on their right to choose.

In response let me say this: Freedom is not about doing what ever you want to do just because you want to: it’s about the freedom to do the right thing and behave in a responsible manner.

If a person is homeless and receiving any type of government assistance, then the right thing would be for them to use the money for the purpose it was intended. They shouldn’t be receiving any monetary assistance for the purpose of getting high or drunk.

At least that’s the way I see it.

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