One Person At A Time

Posted: August 11, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Government, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Housing, Morality

It isn’t often that I’m at a loss for words. And it isn’t often that I don’t have an opinion on one thing or another. In fact, sometimes I’m too opinionated – at least as far as some folks are concerned.  

I’ve always been the sort of person who will tell you what is on my mind without mincing words. I try not to do so in a way that would give offense to anyone, but it doesn’t always come out that way. And, invariably, there is going to be someone or other who takes what I say the wrong way. In some ways, that’s okay because it opens the door to dialogue.

Part of the problem I have with writing this blog is that it has caused me to have very strong ideas about what it wrong with the way homelessness is being addressed in this nation. As far as I’m concerned, not enough is being done. And what little is being done is ineffective because it doesn’t create remedial solutions.

I have to admit, there are times when it seems to me that those organizations and agencies which provide services to the homeless aren’t truly interested in reducing homelessness. It’s as though they’re more concerned with keeping the homeless out of the public eye.

My reasoning behind this thought is that if these agencies and organizations truly wanted to reduce the numbers of homeless, they would have long ago implemented programs which provided a method for the homeless to become housed.

Of course, there is always the complaint that there isn’t enough funding. But that has always seemed far too convenient an excuse.

Granted, things cost money. I’m well aware of that. But, then how is it that we – as a society – seem to always find ways to come up with the funding necessary to constantly implement cosmetic changes to our communities? Yet, we never seem to have enough funding to "wash the inside of the cup" – as it were? Aren’t all of the cosmetic renovations made to our community’s simply superficial window dressing?

What I mean is this: do we have to have flower pots on every corner? Do we have to have banners and flags hanging from the light posts?

I’ve watched as various work crews hang banners around my community’s downtown area. These banners are always advertising some type of upcoming event. But normally I see a good handful of people sent out to do these things, and there always seems to be one or two (and sometimes three) of them who are just standing around "supervising."

Would it be far more cost effective to have just those personnel who are absolutely necessary to do the job? I mean, why pay for four or five people to be out there, when all you really need is two? It seems to me that this is wasteful spending of local taxpayer dollars.

I took the time read my community’s annual budget report when it was first published online. I was shocked to learn how many people are actually employed by the city. There were quite a lot of them – particularly when you consider just how small my community actually is. I know that all of these folks are being paid union wages. And, to tell you the truth, I have no problem with that. Folks should be paid a decent wage for their work.

I’m just wondering how many of those positions overlap with one another? After all, if you can have four people show up to do something like hanging banners from the lamp posts and only two of them are actually working, you’re paying twice as much as you should.

Unfortunately, that’s the way bureaucracy works.

In the meanwhile, approximately one percent of this community’s population is homeless. And, most folks want them to go out, get a job and stop "sponging" off of the rest of us.

While I agree that the homeless should take responsibility for themselves, the real solution isn’t quite as simple as the homeless going out and finding employment. First the unemployment rate is at an all time high with roughly 8.5 million folks unemployed. Second, there is the mortgage crisis with an estimated 2 million properties which will be foreclosed on within the next twelve months. And then of course, there simply aren’t enough low income housing units to go around.

Let’s face reality. Those homeless who are fortunate enough to find employment usually end up with only minimum wage paying positions. That’s a far cry from being able to afford stable housing. So what actually happens is that they are working in hopes of raising their standard of living, but remain homeless because they can’t afford to rent a place of their own.

But there’s more to it than that.

There are stigmas which are attached to the word homeless. And because we, as a society, seem unwilling to disassociate ourselves emotionally and psychologically from our stereotypical views regarding homeless, end up categorizing every homeless person as being the same as any other homeless person; a type of "one size fits all" mentality. What we fail to recognize is that one size does not fit all – at least not in the real world.

Individuality is something we expect others to see in us. Yet, when it comes to the homeless, we often times fail to see that they, too, are individuals. No two are alike. No two have the same needs.

To be sure, we have to view the homeless situation as a whole. But if we want to reduce the numbers of homeless in our nation, we must begin seeing each homeless person as an individual.

That’s how we change the world: one person at a time.

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Comments
  1. Jack says:

    No, you’re not off the mark here. At all.

    What I’ve found, and has been a very hard, rude awakening, is how many of the agencies that fly the “help the homeless” banner are not really doing any real advocacy. This is NOT any manifest, real help.

    It wasn’t until I was becoming homeless and attempting to avoid it by making my own direct contact with these agencies that I learned the woeful, awful truth about all this. Or afterwards, once I was homeless and seeking help that I found out what was truly going on in this “Help The Homeless” industry.

    The message doesn’t get any clearer.

  2. Frank says:

    I know there is a way to help the homeless in a manner that could change their lives and the lives of those of us fortuate enough to have a roof under our heads. Maybe the “concern” that exists regarding homelessness is far more complicated than any one person or organization can handle and maybe because we feel overwelmed no one is doing enough to help the homeless.

    If we people concerned about the homeless could find a way to provide a help for homeless maybe these people would no longer be homeless… would they?

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