What Goes Around…

Posted: December 14, 2008 in Compassion, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality

Whenever I log into the administration section of the blog, I read through the list of search inquiries. These are the queries folks have used which have led them to one or more of my posts. For the most part, they’re variations of something someone else has searched for. Nonetheless, it does give me some idea of the types of information – at least with regards to homelessness – which folks are seeking.  

This past week, I came across an inquiry I’d never seen before: "10 reasons we should not help the homeless."

I’m hoping that whoever it was used that search phrase only because they were doing some type of research and were using different wordings as a way of accessing information. It would be disappointing to think that someone was trying to justify not helping the homeless. On the other hand, what if that person was actually looking for reasons to be uncharitable?

That thought alone struck me as being inhumane. After all, what kind of person would go through the trouble of finding ways to rationalize not showing compassion? Yet, the more I thought about it, the more is seemed to me that perhaps this is something we, as a society, have a tendency of doing when it comes to helping our homeless.

Let me give a few examples.

How often do we see someone who is panhandling and ignore them? When they ask for spare change, we might make the excuse that we don’t have any change to spare. We may tell ourselves that they only want the money to buy alcohol or drugs. That gets us off the hook, doesn’t it? But, is that something we can be absolutely certain of? Might it be that they are really asking so that they can buy themselves something to eat?

What about those times when the local homeless shelters ask the community for donations?

Do we rise to the occasion? Or, do we explain our lack of support by pointing out that they get some funding from the government? They probably even get some financial support from local area businesses. Perhaps we tell ourselves that the $5 or $10 we can spare isn’t going to make a difference. So why send it, right?

There may be certain times of the year when local food banks set out collection barrels at supermarkets. Do we pick up an extra can or two of food to place in them? Or do we convince ourselves that we needn’t worry about it because there will be other folks who will?

Some of us do not think we need to help the homeless because we erroneously believe that the government is providing for them. Or, we may think that the local shelters are meeting all of their needs; that there are enough resources to assist every one of them. Or that if they’re still homeless it is because they’re not availing themselves of those services. When we see a homeless person, we might even direct them to seek help from the shelters. After all, that’s what they’re there for, right – to help the homeless get back on their feet.

The truth is that there is an enormous lack of resources available to help the homeless. Most of the services currently in place consist primarily of a meal, a bed and – from time to time – clothing whenever available. Very little is actually offered to help the person transition back into society.

But, that’s where the rest of us must step in to intervene.

It’s no secret that most folks are struggling to keep their heads above water right now. The current economic recession is affecting everyone. Record numbers of people are finding themselves unemployed due to corporate downsizing and cutbacks. Millions of homes are already in foreclosure or on the very brink of it. The price of consumer goods and services is continuing to rise. Few have a surplus of financial resources.

To be sure, none of us individually may have a large impact when it comes to helping the homeless. However, if we worked together as a community – each of us giving what we could – we’d have the greatest potential for making a difference in the lives of our local homeless.

Because of the recession our nation is in, there are few who are completely immune to becoming homeless. That being true, there is a problem with seeking reasons not to help the homeless: it can back fire on us.

And, there is such a thing as "what goes around comes around."

  1. Skye says:

    Karma… It’s real.

    Also… “There, but for the grace of GOD, go I.” You know this to be fact, as you’ve been there yourself, and I pray that it’s never me standing there with a sign. Granted, there aren’t any visible homeless in my area, but I’ll never pass one by again.

    Thank you for that.

  2. Michael says:

    A lot of people completely miss the point of the homeless situation in that the majority, if not all, of the chronically homeless are saddled with problems stemming from mental disease and addiction. As such, it is not the case that providing for the homeless merely enables their “laziness”, as captured by the Bruce Hornsby lyric “just for fun he says: get a job”. These people have little chance to thrive regardless of economic conditions or intention. At the same time, there are others who do their best and find themselves temporarily homeless due to economic conditions. Both of these sects need and deserve our help and support.

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