Citizens Of The Streets

Posted: July 6, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Compassion, Discrimination, Government, Homelessness, Housing, Misconceptions, Morality

It doesn’t matter where a person lives; natural disasters of one kind or another are a part of life. Mother Nature is going to do what she’s going to do and, there is nothing a person can do the prevent it.  

A news article in the SLO Tribune yesterday, 4,500 homes stand in possible paths of Big Sur, Goleta fires, had this to say as it’s opening line,

"A pair of out-of-control wildfires roared along the Central Coast on Friday, chewing through opposite ends of a parched forest and threatening a total of more than 4,500 homes."

This means that there are quite a number of folks who are going to be displaced – even if only temporarily. If firefighters can get things under control, some of those folks will eventually be able to move back into their homes and move on with life. Right now, it’s unclear how many of those homes will be destroyed by the fires.

If indeed some of those homes are destroyed, I wonder what will become of their owners. Will they be able to rebuild their lives? Or, will they find themselves homeless?

While conventional thinking would lead one to believe that any homes destroyed by the fires will eventually be rebuilt by insurance coverage, consider that there are victims of Hurricane Katrina who are still homeless. Moreover, their insurance companies are refusing to cover the damages to their homes and business. Nor are those victims getting any help through the legal system.

A March 5, 2008 article in The Statesman, Hurricane Katrina Victims Appeal Denied, stated,

"The Supreme Court refused help to Hurricane Katrina victims who want their insurance companies to pay for flood damage to their homes and businesses."

In addition, these folks are not getting any assistance through their local government.

A June 25, 2008 article on the Final website, FEMA squandered $85 million in post-storm supplies, had this to say at the end,

Though he later said it was meant as a joke, Mayor Nagin recently told some convention goers the solution to homelessness is one-way bus tickets out of his city.

"What kind of solution is this? Homelessness is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed. It is a catastrophe that 12,000 people are living on the streets of New Orleans," said Jeff Crouere, political commentator.

"The homeless problem cannot be solved with one-way tickets out of town, but it does need to be addressed. Here is where true political leadership could play a major role, but, unfortunately, that commodity is in short supply in New Orleans."

One of my favorite sayings is:

"Homelessness Can Afflict Anyone"

That’s what homelessness is: an affliction.

Homelessness is not a character trait. It is not a part of a person’s personality or their morality. It is not a way of thinking or a philosophy. It is not something that folks wake up one morning and say to themselves, "Gee, I think that today, I’m going to throw away my whole life and become a bum."

Homelessness is a social situation which is not always preventable. It can – and does – occur for a myriad of reasons. And, it can occur in the blink of an eye.

The key to remedying homelessness is not – as New Orleans Mayor Nagin said, "a one-way ticket out of town."

Yet, there are so many folks who ignorantly believe that finding a way to force the homeless go elsewhere is a solution. It isn’t. It is a "Not In My Backyard" mindset steeped in prejudice, misconception and lack of compassion.

But, I’m willing to wager, that those folks who want the homeless to go elsewhere would be the very first ones to whine and bellyache at the top of their voices about being mistreated not getting help if they were the ones who were homeless. They would be complaining about the lack of services for the homeless; the lack of compassion they’re getting from the rest of the community; how homelessness is not their fault; and how, if they could just get a bit of help, they could get back into the mainstream of the community.

I get regular news alerts regarding homelessness sent to my email. When I click on the links and read the articles, quite often there are comments which are posted in response to the article. The majority of times, most of those comments are vile; filled with contempt and hatred toward the homeless. These comments include such adjectives as: bums, scum bags, deviants, drunks, drug addicts, lazy, worthless, animals, nut cases, retards, dirt bags. The list goes on.

It’s true that there are homeless who might fit one of more of those descriptions. But it’s equally true – if not more so – that many homeless are just folk who have found themselves in a predicament that was beyond their control to prevent. They come in all shapes and sizes: men, women and children. They encompass every age group, educational level, political, religious and philosophical affiliations. They are as diverse a demographic as the entire population. They are our loved ones, friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow church goers. They are our fellow citizens.

More importantly, they are our fellow human beings.

How we behave toward the homeless is indicative of our own morals; our own personal character and integrity.

If we think of ourselves personally as being "good" people, perhaps we ought to begin behaving that way. And, that means recognizing that we’re not better than those who don’t have a place to call home; we’re not superior to them just because we have a roof over our heads or because we might have a job.

The value of a human life isn’t measure by material possessions. Nor should a person’s moral value be judged by where they do or don’t live.

The value of each and every person should be based solely on the humanity within them.

Keep that in mind the next time you happen to see a homeless person.

And remember this; there are no guarantees in life. You could be next one who finds themselves becoming a "citizen of the streets."

  1. papahere says:

    Michael…Many of the homes destroyed in New Orleans were owned by the poor and didn’t meet health and safety standards…it appears the city is waiting for developers to come in, purchase the property and build new middle class homes…at the core of a competitive society is the belief in the “survival of the fittest ” and the homeless are considered the unfittest. ~ Papa

  2. michael says:

    Papa –
    A couple of days ago you left a comment asking about other sites of interest regarding homelessness… there is one public forum that I’m aware of. It is hosted by a couple who were homeless in SLO during 1998/1999.

    Here’s the link:

    – m –

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