If You Have To Ask…

Posted: February 9, 2009 in Compassion, Employment, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Money, Morality, Poverty

It’s interesting to me how folks find this site. Some click through from other blogs. Some have the site bookmarked. And then of course, there are those who find it through doing a search for a specific sub-topic about homelessness.

By far, the most common search inquiry used by folks which provides them with a link to this site is a variation of the question: "Why should we help the homeless?"  

It’s a search query I had seen popping up rather frequently in the past, but I didn’t really assign any significance to it at the time. However, back in May 2008 I received an e-mail which came right out and specifically asked that question of me. As a result I wrote a post with the title: "Why Help The Homeless?"

My attempt to answer the question led me to write these words:

"As far as I can ascertain, almost every culture has some variation of the ‘golden rule’ – behave toward others the way you would like them to behave toward you.

This being the case, I have to ask: if you were the one who was homeless, how would you want the rest of the community to treat you?"

After publishing that post, I became acutely aware of how many folks are asking that question. It seems not a day goes by without someone visiting the site because of it. And that, of course, caused me to start thinking about it again – however from a different direction.

As I conclusion to that post I wrote:

"Why should we help the homeless?

How about for the most simplest – and most noble – of reasons: because it’s the right thing to do?"

I still maintain that as the most valid of reasons for helping the homeless. In fact, because it is the right thing to do, no other reasons need to be postulated.

But that makes me wonder.

Why are we asking why we should help the homeless in the first place? Do we actually need justification for doing the right thing? Have we lost that much of our own humanity that we need to coerce ourselves into being compassionate?

Those are some pretty scary questions. I’m not sure if I want to know the answers.

The reality of life is this: there are folks in our nation who have found themselves homeless.

It’s true that some of them may have caused their own homelessness. However, an ever increasing number are simply victims of the current economic meltdown. They aren’t derelicts or lazy bums. They are decent, hard working folks who found themselves caught in the crossfire. They are casualties of corporate greed and political malfeasance.

Some of them are fortunate enough to have family or friends who will take them in. Those who aren’t as fortunate, find themselves living on the streets; depending on homeless support services for their very survival. But sadly, there aren’t enough resources to effectively assist them all. To make matters worse, funding for emergency shelters and food pantries has been decreased by 35 percent for fiscal year 2009. Consequently, many will be turned away from shelters and left to fend for themselves.

Moreover, the additional 598,000 jobs which were lost this past January, makes it even more difficult for them to find employment – thus reducing their opportunity to regain a foothold in the mainstream community. This then, only prolongs the length of time they will remain homeless.

With all of that, how is it that we feel compelled to ask why we should help the homeless?

If we have to ask ourselves that question, then maybe we need to reassess our own moral character.

Perhaps the question we should be asking is: why we aren’t doing more to help the homeless?

  1. Jason says:

    As usual, you’re right on target.

  2. mary says:

    Walking a mile in another’s shoes might be incentive to help homeless people. My answer to “why should we (or I)” is “why not?”

  3. anamerican says:

    It is scary indeed that anyone needs to be guided toward the morally responsible action towards others.
    I honestly believe that we must set an example for all in our actions towards those in need ~not only is it the right thing to do for our communities but it’s the right thing for us to do as good,decent human beings.

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