The Question Asked

Posted: March 4, 2008 in Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality, Stereotypes

Whenever I get the time, I search the Internet to see what other people are saying about homelessness. I search blogs, news articles and etcetera. Sometimes I find something that really intrigues me.

For example –

Yesterday, I did a general search and came across a question on the site FunAdvice.com.

The person who had posted the question had asked, "Why do people care more about homeless dogs than homeless people?"  

The reason the question caught my attention is because of a post I published in early November of last year called, "Dollars And No Sense."

When I had written the post, I had it in the back of my mind, that there are many people who are indeed more concerned about a stray animal than they are about a homeless person. Needless to say, I was curious to see what types of comments or answers anyone might have posted in response. And there were quite a number of them.

One of the respondents, using the pseudonym, "chiloverjenn" went so far as to say,

"There is no reason anyone should be homeless, aside from the simple truth that they are lazy to get off their behinds to support themselves."

It was somewhat disturbing that this person thought it was a "simple truth." They obviously are unaware that approximately one in four homeless persons have full time jobs, but those jobs don’t pay enough for them to get ahead in life – especially with the ever increasing cost of housing.

Another person who responded, "attentionham" said,

"People are capable of taking care of themselves. If they are in the streets, they gave up on themselves. They are there because of the decisions they made."

To be sure, there are those homeless who have chosen to be homeless. But then, what about those persons who have mental or emotional disabilities who are unable to care for themselves? Moreover, what about those homeless who are senior citizens; who have worked most of their adult lives and are consigned to trying to maintain themselves on a fixed income. Many of those seniors have had to choose between a place to live or the prescriptions they need in order to tend to their medical needs.

Another individual who calls himself "whiskey" said,

"Dogs are just more worthy creatures than people."

On the other hand, there were also comments that had a different point of view. For example, "funadvice123" said,

"… I disagree that people generally care about dogs [more]than people. I just think people look at animals as being helpless, where homeless people are perceived as having the ability to get a job and home, but choose not to do the work necessary."

I found it interesting that "funadvice123" used the word "perceived." Their conclusion was actually more correct than any of the other comments that had been posted.

Our views on homelessness, are often times based more on our personal perceptions than fact.

The dictionary defines the word "perceived" as,

"Detected by instinct or inference rather than by recognized perceptual cues"

The keyword in that definition is: inference – which itself is defined as,

"The reasoning involved in drawing a conclusion or making a logical judgment on the basis of circumstantial evidence and prior conclusions rather than on the basis of direct observation."

When we allow our personal perceptions to dominate our way of thinking, despite evidence to the contrary, we limit our ability to do the right thing. Which brings me to one comment that mentioned doing the right thing,

"Yeah, but there are some people with disorders and financial issues that they can’t control. Like many people who have the disorder where they hallucinate are homeless, because they can’t distinguish the difference between reality and fantasy. It’s not their fault, do they deserve to suffer?

And yes, of course it’s easier to help animals than people, but since when was our job on earth to make the easier choices? Nobody said making the right choice is easy, but if nobody does, then what will happen?"

The majority of the comments had a negative viewpoint of homelessness.

I’m hoping that they don’t represent an accurate cross section of society. If they do, this nation’s homeless are going to find it harder to get out of homelessness.

I know that there are many folk in this community – and indeed all across our nation – who are generous, kind and caring people. They are the ones who seems to always step up to the plate. They are the ones who have no qualms with hoisting the burdens onto their own shoulders. But, it is going to take more than just them if we are going to find viable solutions to helping the homeless help themselves.

Even something as simple as collectively re-focusing our perceived notions about homelessness would be a step in the right direction.

If we did that, I’m certain that we’d be able to do some amazing things. We’d be able to have a significant impact on reducing the numbers of homeless in our community. And, we’d be all the more worth of the name: Americans.

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Comments
  1. Kevin says:

    Amen!

    It’s amazing how many “experts” on homelessness there are – probably just as many homelessness experts as arm chair quarterbacks on Sunday – and are probably the same of the same people.

  2. AnAmerican says:

    After reading about people’s perception on homelessness the word ignorance comes to mind.

    Ignorance is defined as:

    “the state or fact of being ignorant : lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.”

    It’s a widespread condition among us humans perpetuated by urban myths, societal biasis and general lack of substantiated facts.

    Keep up your efforts to stamp out ignorance on the issues of our homeless!

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