The New Year is officially here.

My other half and I spent a good part of yesterday reflecting on, not only the last year, but the past couple of years. The past couple of years have seemed like a life of captivity. Quite often that’s the way homelessness can feel.  

We spoke about the people we’ve met, the things we’ve gone through, the short tempered nights when we weren’t sure if our relationship would see the light of day. We recalled the times when, seemingly out of no where, we found ourselves being helped by the least likely of individuals and at the least likely of times.

We talked about what we hope the future has in store for us. The things we’d like to accomplish this year. The goals we’d like to attain for ourselves. Yes, and we even have some dreams that may seem a bit impossible to many. But then again, this is still the good old U.S.A. where impossible dreams have a way of coming to pass when you least expect them to.

We recalled some of San Luis Obispo’s homeless with whom we become dear friends with – a handful who sadly have passed away. We wondered aloud to one another about some of the families with children or the single mothers with children – and even a couple of single fathers with children who were fortunate enough to find a way out of the shelter and off of the streets.

We smiled and laughed when we thought about the children and some of the antics that engaged in. Beneath the laughter however was a touch of bittersweet sadness when we thought about the fact that these children had to face homelessness in the first place.

We talked about some of the people we’ve met who have mental illnessnesses and who – although they should be getting some type of professional help – are being left to roam around the streets of SLO pretty much on their own struggling to find food to put in their bellies, clothes on their backs and, when necessary, a place to sleep.

We thought about the many senior citizens who call the community home, but for whom home is either their vehicle – if they have one – the homeless shelter or some "camp" in a vacant out of the way place.

We thought about the many men and woman we’ve met who have served in our nation’s military, and who now are treated as though they are nothing more than the dregs of society. Men and women who are forced to recycle or panhandle so that they can afford to have a little more than the "daily bread" which is usually stale.

We talked about the many different faces belonging to staff members and volunteers at both the homeless shelter and the day center. We sadly reflected that the ones which seemed the most humane toward the homeless are the ones who no longer work at either place. Sure, there are a few who continue to work at the night shelter who truly care about the homeless, but unfortunately, they seldom have the ability to alter policy.

One the things we kept coming back to however, was how easy it is to become trapped in the homeless "system" and how difficult it is to get out once you have become ensnared. We had seen that happen all too many times.

We had seen how someone started out all gung ho to find a job and move ahead in life, but as door after door seemed to be getting slammed shut right in their faces, the discouragement became more than most could bare. The result is that they began to try with just a little less vigor than when they started. That way you can avoid becoming too disappointed with getting little or no results.

We talked about how each of the government agencies and various homeless support service organizations all seem to use the same "excuses" for why they can’t do more to help the homeless: lack of available funds. Still most of the folks who make these claims sure seem to be driving some fancy vehicles. We wondered when the propaganda was going to stop and when they were going to start doing the right thing.

We thought about how so many people are content to believe the lie that the majority of homeless are lazy, malcontents, irresponsible, drug addicts, alcoholics or any other derogatory adjective that most people apply to someone who doesn’t have a home.

We remarked on how many people who do have homes are actually worse miscreants than many of the homeless that we know.

In the end, we had to be content with the progress that we’ve made personally. We realized that it was simply no good to beat ourselves over the head because we haven’t gone from "0 to 60 in 5.6 seconds." Some things simply take longer than others.

Sure the progress that we’ve made isn’t as great as we would have like to have had it been, but it’s been forward momentum nonetheless. So that’s a plus.

Yes. We’ve had help along the way. Which means there are a lot of people who get credit for the good that has occurred in our lives over the last year or so. And, not to pat ourselves on the back, but I can see that we had something to do with it also. We took the good fortune that was given us and tried our best to utilize it in a manner that was wise. We tried to see it as a stepping stone to a better future.

To be sure, it has been a humbling experience. It’s also, been an extremely enlightening couple of years. There are realities that we were brought face to face with that, like many other Americans, we were ignorant of. The biggest of these is the reality of what homelessness is all about and the types of people who can become homeless.

What it all came down to was that we’ve discovered is that homelessness can indeed afflict anyone for any reason.

We know. It managed to get a hold of us despite our best efforts to avoid it.


What was our New Year’s resolution?

To keep pressing on… and never lose sight of the humanity that is a part of the legacy; the birthright of each and everyone of us – homeless and non-homeless.


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