The Rest Of The Post

Posted: September 30, 2008 in Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality

I get somewhat of a strange enjoyment when any type of sarcasm is aimed directly at me, particularly when it is meant to chide and "put me in my place" or when it’s meant to goad me into some sort of action – which it seldom does. The truth is that I simply won’t rise to the bait and engage in nonsense. This, of course, usually ends up irritating the other person even more and they become all the more sarcastic. Oh well.  

Case in point –

Earlier this year, in May, I published a post titled, Another Question Asked.

I began the post by mentioning that this blog receives, as I put it, "its fair share of emails." Then I went on to partially describe the various types of emails I receive: some from folks who would like to do something to help the homeless and would like my feedback, others from groups who would like to know if I’d be interested in participating in some of their functions to help the homeless and then of course, emails from college and university students who are doing research on homelessness.

The emails from these students usually entail a list of questions which they would like me to answer. Unfortunately, because of the volume of requests and also because I have other obligations, there is an extremely limited amount of time I can spend answering emails.

In that post I chose one email, written by a Joumana Soufi, to "comment" on because of one specific question – an issue which I had yet to write about. The question was: "In your opinion, what are the homeless rights?"

A couple of days ago, the blog received a comment (that was flagged by the site’s filters and sent to the moderation queue), which was oozing with sarcasm and opened with this:

How weird it is to be googling up my family name just for fun and my sister’s name pops up in your website. Yes, I’m Joumana Soufi’s sister, Dima Soufi. Joumana is a female name by the way. But I’m sure you already knew that considering how much of a ‘bright’ person you are, clearly..

After reading the comment, I found myself chuckling because it was quite obvious that Dima had felt that she had "put me in my place."

The next day, the blog received a second comment – this time from Joumana Soufi herself. It also was filled to the brim with sarcasm. That comment also had me chuckling to myself, because it was almost as long as the post. And again, I’m sure that Joumana felt that she, too, had "put me in my place."

In addition to the sarcasm, what both comments had in common was the overall implication that had I been an "educated" or "clever" person, I should have simply taken the time to answer the 14 questions posed to me originally by Joumana – and according to her,

"… and If you have spent the same amount of time trying to answer any question, close to the amount of time it took you to write this page, I would have taken you seriously for a bit."

In the end though, I was left feeling quite sad for both of these sisters. They had both missed the salient point of that particular post. It was about what I felt the rights of the homeless were. That I had used Ms. Soufi’s email as a lead in to answering one of the questions she’d asked, had completely escaped the both of them – which should not have been the case, considering that this blog is about homelessness. Yet, their comments had completely ignored the rest of the post. Their comments were all about Joumana Soufi, while ignoring the principal topic: homelessness.

And that started a series of thoughts going around in my mind: the ignoring of the homeless.

Currently, the U.S. economy is in dire straits. There is a housing crisis, with millions of homes at risk of foreclosure. Tens of millions of American’s do not have adequate health coverage – or lack it altogether. There are record numbers of jobs being lost to cutbacks and outsourcing. The number of unemployed American’s is at record levels. There is a noticeable lack of affordable housing. The price of goods and services is disproportionately high in comparison to the wages of most American’s. There is a potential food shortage. And, the list goes on.

So, in some ways, it is easy to understand how the nation’s homeless go ignored. Folks are struggling to make ends meet and provide for their own families. It’s understandable how that would be the priority of most folks.

However, the ignoring of the homeless goes beyond just the material necessities of life. Many times the homeless are not actually seen as worthy of being helped and therefore are ignored by the rest of the community. I believe much of this has to do with the numerous misconceptions and stereotypes associated with homelessness.

It is no secret that there are homeless who have an addiction disorder of some type. It is also no secret that there are those who deliberately choose to be homeless. There are homeless who have learned how to "work the system" and are content to take whatever they can get from society, providing it doesn’t require them to be responsible for themselves and their actions. And, yes, there are even those who are too lazy to do anything on their own behalf which would help them get off the streets. In a nutshell, they fit the stereotypes of homelessness. But, these individuals do not represent the totality of the homeless population.

The majority of homeless, in fact, are just regular folk who have found themselves in a situation from which it is difficult to escape. The ability to rise up out of homelessness is turned into a labyrinth of twists, turns and dead ends because there is a lack of effective and viable programs designed to assist them at transitioning back into the mainstream community. And the excuse most often used to justify not creating and implementing these types of programs is the lack of funding. The net result is that the numbers of homeless is on the rise.

Yes, everyone is struggling to keep their heads above water. And yes, finding effective ways of helping the homeless does cost money. But unless we are willing to invest what it will take to have a significant impact at reducing the numbers of homeless, we may find that it will ultimately cost us more in terms of human suffering.

The homeless are our fellow citizens. They are members of our communities. They are people – just as we are – whose needs shouldn’t be ignored just because some of them are not willing to do anything on their own behalf. It isn’t fair – or right – to penalize, ignore and not help an entire segment of folks simply because some of them are the "trouble makers."

Let’s not forget "the rest of the post" or lose sight of what should be our goal: to help the homeless help themselves.

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Comments
  1. Doug says:

    It’s too bad about these two sisters not having enough empathy for the homeless to realise that you were using their email just as a way to make a point. By focusing only on themselves they showed a lack of true social concern.
    I used to write a blog too but had to stop writing it when I couldn’t keep up, so I know what you mean about not being able to answer every email that you get.
    As for the homeless – a cousin of mine ended up homeless for a while when her boyfriend kicked her out of their apartment over something petty. Even though we took her in, she didn’t deserve to be homeless even for a day. She didn’t use drugs or booze. But the stories she told me about how people treated her because she was homeless was enough to break my heart. You’re right that we shouldn’t treat all of the homeless alike just because some of them don’t want to have a better life.
    Keep up the good work and keep telling it like it is.

  2. Chelena R says:

    I’ve been reading your blog articles since last November. Don’t stop writing your articles because of those two women who got mad at you. I dont always agree with what you write, but I try to keep an open mind. Some of the things you have said made me see the homeless different than before. I’ve met some of the homeless who are the “bums” and I also met some of the homeless who are really nice and trying really hard to find jobs. But now I see that all of them are people.

  3. AnAmerican says:

    When I read about this e-mail you got from the two sisters who read your blogs and then engaged in dialogue not about homeless issues of which one sought answers, but about making it about themselves I just shook my head. Some people just don’t “get it”!
    While the number of homeless citizens rises, communities continue to bypass the real issue of homelessness. Our government is willing to bail out corporations yet do nothing for the people who really, really need assistance in this country. There is a sense of entitlement that seems to preclude looking at our homeless population with a humanitarian focus. Entitlement is a dangerous attitude to adopt in this current economic climate…..we just never know which one among ourselves may need the compassion of others.

  4. Brian says:

    I’ve been reading your blog entries off and on now for awhile. The first one I ever read was about how some people care more about homeless animals than homeless people. When I read this entry about those two sisters and their emails I did like AnAmerican did and shook my head too. These sisters sound spoiled and arrogant. Maybe that’s why there are so many homeless who can’t get help because we think we’re better than they are and so we look down on them and think they don’t deserve our help because they’re homeless.

  5. Skye says:

    I don’t think these two sisters are the brightest crayons in the box. After all, they used their full names when emailing a “stranger”. That or they’re simply too arrogant to think anything or anyone could ever threaten them. God help them if they’re ever facing homelessness themselves.

    The “it’s all about me” attitude of some people have wiped compassion out of their hearts completely. Sad really.

  6. Tammie says:

    Just from the two samples of what these two sisters wrote to you it shows that they’re way too self-righteous and too self-absorbed.

    I went back and read the original article where you mentioned the email. You might not have answered all 14 of her questions, but you did answer one of them in that article and I think you did a good job of it too. You showed that the homeless have the same rights as everybody else and should be treated with the same respect. Thanks for sticking to your convictions.

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