Decisions, Decisions

Posted: April 8, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Compassion, Discrimination, Goals, Homelessness, Hopes

Although I had a couple of things that I had to attend to, I had a pretty uneventful day. There was no need to make any major decisions; no need to make any earth shattering choices. I was actually pretty nice. In fact, the biggest decision I had to make today was over which type of coffee to get.

In case you don’t already know, McDonald’s sells ice coffee. I’ve become quite fond of it. You can get it in vanilla; sugar free vanilla; hazelnut; caramel or without any flavoring at all. Deciding which flavor to get was the closest I came to making a major decision today.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t have to make any choices altogether – just none of the decisions I made were noteworthy.  

In all reality, everyone is constantly making choices. From the moment we wake up in the morning until we drift off into la-la land at night, we’re constantly making choices. I wouldn’t even venture to guess just how many decisions we end up making throughout our day. But, I’ll bet it’s more than two.

Some decisions we make will have a huge and lasting impact on our future; will shape the course of our lives. Other choices are as simple as deciding what pair of socks we’re going to wear for the day. Regardless, we’re constantly making choices whether we recognize it or not.

Sometimes we find it difficult to choose between two courses of action. We’re just not sure which will produce the most optimum results. At times like most of us put on our thinking caps and hope for the best. At other times we have to choose between the "lesser of two evils." Fortunately most of the time we have a slight idea which is the best course of action.

Imagine though what it would be like if every choice you were faced with was pretty much a non-option: a Hobson’s choice.

I suppose I should explain what a Hobson’s choice is.

Around the turn of the 17th Century, there was a livery stable owner named Thomas Hobson, who used to "rent" out his horses. He didn’t want to put too much mileage on any one horse, so he would rotate the horses. Which ever horse happened to be made available for hire that day would be placed in the stall nearest the door.

Regardless, if you went to him for a horse you had one of two choices: take the horse that was in the stall nearest the door, or not take the horse – but you certainly didn’t have the option to choose from among the other horses if you didn’t want the one nearest the door. Of course there was no guarantee that the horse nearest the door was in the best of shape. In fact, it could have been right on the verge of giving up the ghost. And, if it was you had to choose between riding a horse that was in poor shape or walk. Not much of choice is it?

I guess the best example of a Hobson’s choice was the one offered to customers by Henry Ford. He was willing to sell you a Model T in "… any color you want so long as it’s black."

It wouldn’t be a particularly enjoyable way to live your life, would it?

Yet, for America’s homeless their entire day is nothing more than a Hobson’s choice.

Everyday, hundreds of thousands of this nation’s homeless are faced with a "damned if you do, damned if you don’t" existence. Most of the time whatever options the homeless have available to them only lead them right back to square one.

The reason there is a lack of viable options available to the homeless is because there is a lack of funding to provide and maintain the types of services the homeless really need.

Homeless shelters are not designed to help the homeless advance. They are designed to provide "emergency shelter and services" only. Even those homeless support service agencies that attempt to provide some form of transitional programs fall disappointingly short of the mark.

The lack of funding; the shortage shelter staff; the unwillingness of local governments to enact legislation that truly offer a "hand up and not a hand out" to the homeless; and stereotypical thinking among so many within the community; all serve to deny the homeless effective options for escaping homelessness.

About a week ago, while using the Internet to do some research, I came across a website that allows folks the opportunity to understand the Hobson’s choice life that the homeless live.

Here’s the link to the site:

Hobson’s Choice – Gain Empathy for the Homeless

Give it try.

You might just come away from it with a bit of understanding of what it’s like to be homeless.

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