A Fool’s Dream

Posted: September 3, 2008 in Acceptance, Compassion, Goals, Government, Homelessness, Misconceptions

Yesterday evening while I was doing an online search I inadvertently came a New York Times article from July 2004 titled, Will Compasses Point South? That seemed a bit of an odd title since I was looking for something completely different. Still, it was intriguing enough that I temporarily bookmarked the link then continued my search.  

Later, after I’d found what I was looking for, I went back and read the NYT article. It was about the shifting – or reversal – of the Earth’s magnetic poles. This caught my interest so I did a search on the topic and found two more articles, When North Goes South, and Earth’s Core, Magnetic Field Changing Fast, Study Says which I also found interesting.

As everybody knows, the Earth has two magnetic poles: north and south. According to the articles, these poles undergo magnetic reversals at semi-regular intervals – at least semi-regular in the course of overall geological time. In the end, the Earth’s magnetic poles change their polarity: the North Pole becomes the "south" pole, and the South Pole becomes the "north" pole. The Earth doesn’t flip flop and turn upside down or anything. It’s just the magnetic polarity of the Earth which flips "upside down" – as it were.

With me so far?

As it turns out this magnetic pole reversal is a natural phenomenon: it’s been happening over the entire lifetime of the Earth. And, it’s going to continue to occur from time to time until… well, until the Earth ceases to exist.

Whether a magnetic reversal is going to occur during my lifetime, I haven’t the faintest idea. Still, I did find the entire idea thought provoking. And of course, I began wondering if there would be some type of "side effects" of this reversal other than compasses pointing south instead of north. But wondering about these "reversals" started me thinking another line of thought.

I’ve written numerous posts in which I’ve pointed out that not all homeless folks fit the stereotypical view of homelessness. In fact, it’s a very small percentage of homeless who actually typify what most folks envision when they think about homelessness.

Unfortunately, it’s that small percentage which happens to be the most visible of the homeless. And, they are the most visible because of their behavior. They’re the trouble makers, the "fall down" drunk, the derelict and so on.

On the other hand, the majority of our nation’s homeless are folks who have found themselves their present situation due to circumstances that may have been outside their ability to control: job loss, medical emergency, shrinking numbers of affordable housing and so forth.

Still, despite studies and data to the contrary, most folks continue to think of the homeless as being the dregs of society. Much of this has to do with an overall lack of pubic awareness. There is very little which is being done to educate the general public about homelessness. The news media seldom give a true representation about homelessness. Local governments have traditionally addressed the issue in their communities by enacting ordinances which penalize the homeless. And the average person is seldom willing to even consider that their viewpoint of homelessness may not be entirely correct. Even most homeless support service agencies, seldom do much to dispel the misconceptions surrounding homelessness.

The truth is that we are all at fault when it comes to way in which we view the homeless.

What is needed is a "magnetic reversal" of our perceptions regarding the homeless, which is why I was so excited to read an article in the Press-Enterprise, Riverside County begins effort to challenge misconceptions about homeless.

In Riverside County (CA), there is an "advertising" campaign being promoted and paid for by the local government, which is specifically geared toward challenging and dispelling the misconceptions and stereotypes which are associated with homelessness. The campaign’s theme: "The Homeless. They’re not who you think."

I was particularly impressed with what a manager for Department of Public Social Services’ homeless programs in the county, Ronald Stewart, was quoted as saying,

"We are trying to reposition what homelessness is in the mind of the average resident of this county. We are trying to dispel myths and portray what homelessness really is in Riverside County."

After reading the article, I thought how strong an impact on reducing the numbers of homeless there could be if other municipalities were to adopt similar campaigns instead of adopting ordinances which penalize their local area homeless.

I personally believe that members of a community might be more apt to act in a more compassionate manner toward the homeless if their local elected officials took the lead and did so first. Let’s face it; most of us do a pretty good job at "following the leader."

If our leaders look down on the homeless, the majority of us are probably going to do the same. If, on the other hand, our leaders exercised their civil and moral obligations and began to treat their local area homeless as part of the community, instead of as outcasts, most of us would probably follow suit – and there would be a strong push to actually help the homeless help themselves.

Who knows… perhaps, I’m seeing things through too simple a mindset. Nonetheless, as far as I’m concerned, Riverside County gets four gold stars in my book for their efforts – because, at the very least, it’s a step in the right direction.

And, maybe it’s a fool’s dream, but it would be so nice if other cities were willing to do the same.

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