For me, authoring and maintaining this blog creates a number of "side effects." One of them is the outlook I have with regards to, what I perceive as, how the homeless of this nation are generally viewed by the mainstream members of society. And, because of that I have a tendency to think in terms of what we’re not doing to reduce homelessness in our communities.
Admittedly, I personally do not feel that enough is being done to help the homeless help themselves. However, that doesn’t mean that absolutely nothing is being done. There are plenty of folks who do care about the homeless in their community. And, there are also those who take an active part in volunteering at their local homeless shelters.
Then of course, there are those folks who will give money or food – and sometimes both – to a homeless person they chance to come across. There are those folks who will make monetary donations to the local homeless support service agencies. Some provide clothing and other such items as well. There are local area businesses which also do the same.
Even local governments do their part by allocating a certain amount of funding to the local agencies which provide services to the homeless. And not all law enforcement officials give the homeless a hard time either. There are some police officers who actually go out of their way to "cut some slack" to homeless folks by not issuing a ticket, even if one is deserved.
Perhaps the problem with my often times not feeling as though enough is being done to help the homeless, or that people don’t seem to care is because I have experienced homelessness; I know what it’s like to be disregarded by fellow members of the community. But, then again, I also had my fair share of times when folks went out of their way to show me kindness.
I also believe that part of what causes me frustration is that I would dearly love to see a major reduction of homeless in the community. Because I know what it’s like to spend night after night having to sleep out of doors hidden away, I genuinely feel for those who are still out there. I often times crawl into my bed thinking of them; wondering if they’re okay; are they warm enough; have they had anything to eat today, and so on. And, I wish that there were something I could do to help each and every one of them.
I realize that homelessness isn’t an easy social condition to remedy. I also realize that homelessness is not something which can be done away with just like that. Even sadder, is the knowledge that homelessness will always be a part of our communities despite our best efforts. That’s just the reality of life.
All that having been said, though…
There are several things which I know in my heart that will be needed if we are going to have an impact at helping the homeless.
One is that we will have to alter our perceptions regarding homelessness.
I’m willing to wager that most folks, when they think of homelessness, still continue to envision a disheveled looking person; someone who perhaps doesn’t have a nice, clean laundered appearance; or a person who is pushing a shopping cart; or a person standing on a corner holding a cardboard sign; or even a person standing in front of a convenience store asking for spare change.
While there are homeless who fit those descriptions, it doesn’t necessarily make them derelicts. Some of them simply have no other means of scrapping together enough money to buy something to eat. To be sure, there are those homeless who will use the money for alcohol or drugs, but not all of them do.
And regardless of how "un-wholesome" that person may appear to us visually, it is going to take for us to be able to see past the veneer. We must make the conscious effort to see the inner person. But that’s not something easy to do if we aren’t willing to make the time to interact – even on the most basic of levels. I’m sure that is one of the reasons we often times forget that a homeless person is a person.
I’m certain that if we were able to view each homeless person as a fellow human being; if we were willing to make the time to find out what or why that person became homeless; what their lives were like prior to living on our city streets; we might find that we have much more in common with them than we thought. That in itself would probably make us more willing to extend a bit of compassionate assistance because we would realize that all of us share a common thread: we’re all people; each of us with frailties of our own.
And, it’s that common thread which makes all of us – homeless and non-homeless – human.