Sink Or Swim

Posted: August 12, 2007 in Compassion, Homelessness, Morality

When I read George Eliot’s novel Adam Bede, I was struck by the clarity and insight contained in these words.

"We hand folks over to God’s mercy, and show none ourselves."

I seems strange to me that we are able to go through the motions of kindness sometimes without ever really feeling it deep down inside. It becomes almost mechanical for us to NOT see what we don’t want to see. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re so caught up in our own little worlds or because we have allowed ourselves to become jaded to those who are in need.

Once we get into the habit of not reaching out to those who need our help, we set in motion a potential for refusing to be moved to action.

While I’ll admit that there are certainly those homeless who have chosen to be homeless and there are homeless who are problematic individuals, many of the homeless that I’ve met are actually pretty decent people. They are simply having a hard time with life right now – and, they’re hoping and wishing that they could find a way off of the streets.

Unfortunately, the system that is currently set up to help them doesn’t fit the bill. Most of the time it offers them little or no true way of escape but rather keeps them locked in a vicious cycle.

It’s true that there is a lack of adequate funding to establish and maintain programs that would help them move ahead in life but at the same time, there is a lack of willingness to put such programs into effect. Perhaps the biggest barrier to these programs is that most homeless support service providers have become accustomed to doing things in a certain way and so it’s difficult for those who are in positions to install new programs and procedures to actually do so. It’s become a "This is the way we’ve always done it" frame of mind.

While these methodologies may have worked in the past, they are certainly not working now. But then again, how can they work? The face of homelessness of today is not the same as it was a couple of decades ago. It is going to take a lot of thinking outside of the box if the millions of people who experience homelessness are going to have the chance to become reintegrated back into the mainstream society. It’s going to take more than conducting studies – it’s going to take good old fashioned rolling up of our shirt sleeves.

Since the numbers of homeless are increasing, it’s in our best interest as a nation to get out of our collective seats, roll up our shirt sleeves and take the proverbial bull by the horns.

Anything less and we’re going to find ourselves drowning.

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