At Arms’ Length

Posted: September 12, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Discrimination, Government, Homelessness, Housing, Politics

There are times when something so off the wall occurs when I’m left, both shaking and scratching my head in stupor. Case in point –

Yesterday I wrote No Perfect Solutions. So far, so good, right? Except for one thing – one reader, named Marce, left a comment saying:

I know this blog is about homeless people but Im’ disappointed that all you did was just complained about the email you get and didn’t mention somethign about the people who died on 9/11.

The typos are hers, not mine.  

Not only did she leave the comment, but she felt the further need to send me an email as well, chiding me for not posting something as a tribute to honor the victims of the 9-11 attacks of seven years ago. For some reason, she seemed to think that my not doing so showed a lack of patriotism.

Admittedly, I don’t wear an American Flag lapel pin. Nor do I personally like all of the magnetic yellow "ribbons" proclaiming that we should "Support Our Troops" and yet there will be approximately 400,000 American Veterans who will experience homelessness this year. However, I don’t believe it shows a lack of patriotism. In addition to that, I find it odd that Marce should even think for a moment that I should change the topic of the blog so that I might be seen as patriotic.

If anything, she should have quit with the first line – or at the very least heeded her own words: this blog is about homelessness. To be sure, I touch on a number of other topics as a way of trying to explain my points of view or for showing a contrast between the mainstream society and the homeless. Yet, the only topic this blog truly centers around is homelessness in our society. If anything, that I choose to blog about an issue which deals with a devastating human condition, in itself should speak volumes regarding my love for my Country and it’s citizens – every last one of them.

And that is the crux issue. The homeless of this nation are part of its citizenry and should be treated no differently than any other of its citizens. Yet, what should be and what is are, at times, diametrically opposite.

This nation’s homeless are plagued by prejudices and discrimination from fellow members of their own communities. The very folk who should be willing to lend a helping hand, are often times the ones who are guilty of "casting stones" the hardest.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve read news article after news article about this city or that community which had plans to create housing to help the homeless. And, invariably those plans have been scrapped. The reason: because someone in the neighborhood where the proposed housing was to be established had "concerns" about putting a homeless shelter or supportive housing for the homeless in that specific neighborhood; they were afraid it would negatively affect property values or other such nonsense.

I find it bordering on the ridiculous to focus on the value of a building but totally ignore the value of a human life. It seems that everyone wants their local government to "do something about the homeless," but no one seems to want it to happen anywhere near to where they live.

What makes it worse is that most – if not all – of these plans to help the homeless, usually have strong support behind them. Yet, let one or two people complain that they don’t want any type of "homeless housing" in their area and the locally elected leaders become moral cowards. Suddenly, there is a need to re-examine the issue; new "impact studies" have to be put together; zoning boards find some obscure and petty reason for not issuing permits which allow the plan to go forward. In some instance, agreements are made "behind" the scenes and away from public view.

Eventually, the community once again prods their local leaders saying that "something needs to be done about the homeless." Then the circus atmosphere begins all over again – and ends sadly with the same outcome.

The truth of the matter is that most Americans believe that not enough is being done to address homelessness; most believe that the government should be doing more. Yet, when it comes to their having to also make some concessions, they are the first ones to balk.

The net result is that the homeless are once again left out in the cold.

As a society, we can’t have it both ways. If we want to reduce the numbers of homeless in our communities, then we must be willing to allow the homeless to become a part of the community. Helping the homeless become reintegrated back into the mainstream of society will never occur so long as we keep them at arms’ length.

  1. AnAmerican says:

    I read this comment yesterday and clicked off…it was so utterly “off base” that I wasn’t sure I read it correctly.

    Let’s be clear about 9/11…it was a horrific tragedy.

    Let’s be clear about homelessness…people are living without shelter everyday in America. Want to honor those Americans who are no longer here? How about doing something for this country that will make a difference to those Americans in need. (Sorry, internet comments don’t count)

  2. Skye says:

    Yep. Everyone wants “someone else” to “do something” about the homeless. Consequently, the homeless don’t get the help they need. If we banded together as a nation and everyone chipped in with either time or talents, money and/or supplies, there would BE no homeless. I wish I knew the answers…

    As for Marce… I wonder how many were left homeless as a direct result of 911? You, my friend, give them a voice, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s about as patriotic as it gets. Kudos!

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