My Five Hundreth

Posted: October 29, 2008 in Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality

Geez. I can hardly believe it. This is my 500th post.

When I first began authoring this blog I did it because I needed an outlet for the frustrations that were building up within me at how the homeless in my community were being treated. Sadly, the homeless are still generally being viewed and treated in much the same way as they were back then. They are still being viewed by so many in the mainstream community as more of a public nuisance instead of as people who need a helping hand.  

There have been a number of changes as to the way I write my posts now compared to how I wrote my posts when I first began. Back then, I’d write a post with the understanding that folks might read something I’d written. Now, I write with the knowledge that folks are reading what I write. What I wasn’t prepared for were the various types of emails that I’d receive.

While the majority of the emails which show up in the blog’s inbox are generally supportive of what I’m doing, about 10 percent of them are chock full of vitriolic, derogatory and other forms of mean spirited comments. Some of them have gone so far as to accuse me of trying to twist things around in an attempt to "… fool everyone to believe that the homeless are nice people" or "… make us feel guilty for not wanting to help those bums."

Actually, to be quite honest about it, I’ve never written a post with the intent to "prove" anything. I’ve presented statistical data, or have quoted and linked to various news articles and then, have given my thoughts and opinions about it. Whether a reader agrees or disagrees with my opinions is entirely up to them.

Although I may have failed from time to time, I have been diligent to be fair minded in presenting my opinions. Subsequently, I’ll be the first to concede, there are those homeless who are indeed "bums." And yes, there are those homeless who deliberately choose to be homeless; and those homeless who are indeed too lazy to do for themselves and would rather "work the system."

Truth to be told though, the majority of the homeless I’ve met actually are nice people. They are folks who have gone through a rough time. Some of them have faced circumstances and situations that they were unprepared for. Others have had a series of unforeseen medical or financial exigencies. A number of them have some form of mental health issue. In the end, they have found themselves homeless. But, the majority of them would love nothing more than to have the opportunity to have a place of their own to call home.

If there has been one constant in all of my posts it has been in the desire to humanize the homeless. Every homeless individual is, after all, a human being; a person who experiences all of the same physical, psychological and emotional needs as everyone else. Being homeless does not rob them of their humanity. Subsequently, their homelessness shouldn’t be used as an excuse to deny them being treated with the same dignity and respect that the rest of us expect for ourselves. If anything, it should be the catalyst for us to express and exercise our compassion for our fellow citizens.

Unfortunately, the largest obstacles which the homeless face are the many stereotypes and misconceptions which the majority of society continues to adhere to. Even when we are presented with evidence to the contrary, we seem unable to move past the erroneous beliefs that every homeless person has some form of alcohol or drug addiction. In many ways it’s become habitual for us to think of homeless persons this way. Perhaps this is the reason which we seem unwilling to intervene in the life of a homeless person who we happen to personally come in contact with.

There is a saying that "… old habits die hard."

On the PhysOrg.com website’s page, Brain researchers explain why old habits die hard, it states,

"Habits help us through the day, eliminating the need to strategize about each tiny step… Bad habits, though, can have a vice grip on both mind and behavior."

For many a homeless person, homelessness may eventually – and in some instances – has already become a habit. And, for so many of us, ignoring the plight of our homeless has become just as much a habit.

As simple minded as it may be for me to say this, if we expect the homeless to "change their ways" and make a better life for themselves, it seems to me that we also must "change our ways" and do what we can to help them help themselves.

I guess there’s enough need for rehabilitation on both sides, isn’t there?

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