Without A Meal

Posted: July 29, 2008 in Civil Rights, Discrimination, Homelessness, Hunger, Poverty

Mid-morning yesterday, I somehow managed to drop my laptop’s power adapter. It hit the floor, the case popped opened and all of its insides came pouring out.

After patting myself on the back for my klutziness, I picked all of it up off the floor. Once I’d done a quick visual inspection, I discovered I was going to have to do some repair work on it. No worries. I’ve repaired other electronics gadgets.  

After re-soldering those connections which needed it, I "packed" everything back inside the case, closed everything up, plugged in and powered up the laptop. Since I’m writing these words, it’s quite apparent that I did everything correctly.

First order of business once the laptop was up and running, was to log onto the Internet and order another power supply – as a back up, just in case.

One phrase that came to mind while I was re-soldering connections was: hard wired.

Almost every electronic gizmo contains components which are hard wired. It doesn’t matter if it’s a diode, a resister, or something else – those parts are designed to perform one specific function. It will not do something that it’s not designed to do. That’s all there is to it. And, if that part fails, you have to replace the part itself. There’s no way to repair it.

But electronic gadgets aren’t the only things which are hard wired. Every living thing on the planet is hard wired, too.

Human beings are hard wired by their DNA. Call it genetics or whatever; your genes pre-determine quite a number of things regarding who you are.

For example: I have dark brown hair and dark brown eyes. I’m also pre-disposed to being left handed.

I could color or lighten my hair. I could put "tinted" contact lenses in my eyes. But, beneath it my genetic "programming" can’t be changed and my eyes would continue to be brown, as will my hair until my DNA says that it’s time for my hair to start turning white – as is currently the case. I’ve managed to learn how to write with my right hand, but I’m still pre-dominantly a southpaw regardless.

There is another type of hard wiring that is a part of each human being: the drive for survival. It is this drive; this desire to survival causes a person to do whatever it takes to ensure that survival.

The two primary things necessary for life are: food and water; and sleep.

For "regular" folk, these needs are basically easy to come by. For a homeless person, however, it’s not quite so easy. To be sure, there are homeless shelters, food kitchens, and the like, but the fact remains that the homeless do not always have access to meals.

In November of 2007, The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and The National Coalition for the Homeless, jointly released a report titled: Feeding Intolerance: Prohibitions on Sharing Food with People Experiencing Homelessness.

Here are some quick facts taken from the report:

  • 28% sometimes or often do not get enough to eat, compared with 12% of poor American adults.
  • 20% eat one meal a day or less.
  • 40% went one or more days in the last 30 days without anything to eat because they could not afford food, compared with 3% of poor Americans.
  • An average of 23% of overall emergency shelter requests went unmet, while 29% of shelter requests by homeless families went unmet.

A growing number of cities, rather than implement programs to address these issues, have gone to the opposite extreme by adopting laws and ordinances which penalize those persons or groups that feed the homeless. For example:

  • The Las Vegas city council passed an ordinance that bans "the providing of food or meals to the indigent for free or for a nominal fee" in city parks.
  • The City of Wilmington, N.C., passed an ordinance that prohibits the sharing of food on city streets and sidewalks.
  • The Orlando, Fla., city council passed an ordinance that prohibits sharing food with more than 25 people in city parks without a permit and limits groups to doing so to two times a year.

The penalties for violating these ordinances are just as extreme:

  • In Orlando, police arrested a man who served food to 30 people in a public park for violating a city ordinance that prohibits sharing food with more than 25 people without a permit. He faced a penalty of up to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail for violating this law.
  • In Dallas, anyone caught sharing food with a homeless person without a permit may be fined up to $2,000 and/or jailed for up to six months.

What I find ludicrous about these types of ordinances is that those persons and organizations which feed the homeless are doing so on an extremely limited budget. Permits cost money. Additionally, by prohibiting the feeding of the homeless, municipalities potentially create a "criminal class" from those who are hungry. As I stated, survival requires the need to be fed. Without access to food, if a person becomes hungry enough, stealing to feed one’s self becomes an alternative to starving.

Consider these two paragraphs from the report:

Another misconception is that hunger is not a problem for homeless individuals. Many people believe that food pantries and soup kitchens are so abundant and accessible that every homeless person can get food if he or she desires. Food pantries do not effectively meet the needs of people without homes because homeless people lack the cooking facilities necessary to make use of the food. Additionally, many food pantries give only one box of food away per month which is not nearly enough.

Cities also may not have adequate food availability through soup kitchens. Many cities do not have enough facilities to serve all those in need three times a day, seven days a week. In addition, in many public discussions about food programs, proponents of food sharing restrictions frequently assume that people who are homeless are mentally and physically able to walk or travel by other means significant distances to get to a food program on time.

The next time you walk over to your kitchen and pull something from of the cupboard or out of the refrigerator to munch on, consider that there are folks in your community who today will go without a meal. They may also go without a meal tomorrow as well.

How long do you think you could go without a meal?

And if you become hungry enough, what would you do to put food into your belly?

  1. Jeremy says:

    I see your point about people maybe stealing to feed their selfs but maybe the homeless need to get jobs to. I work and sometimes dont have enough left for me. so maybe their homeless because they don’t work. Its not right to try and make us feel guilty because they have nothing to eat.

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