A Need For Constructive Dialogue

Posted: March 28, 2009 in Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness, Morality

A couple of days ago I received a new comment to one of my older posts: Why Help The Homeless?

The comment, left by a gentleman named Sam, was held in the blog’s moderation queue pending my review and approval. His comment was,

"If God felt that it was the right thing to do to help the homeless, perhaps he should do it himself. Like make houses miraculously appear in parks."

While I personally did not agree with the sentiment, I do believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion. As a result, prior to allowing the comment to be posted I sent him an email.  

In it I asked,

"I am curious… what is your personal view regarding homelessness? Should we be willing to assist them become productive members of the community; or should we simply ignore them?

I ask because I was under the impression that Canada is a nation which believes in socialization of services for its citizens. Yet – based on your comment – you do not seem to share that view."

I must admit that his reply email caught me by surprise. Based on his comment, I had somewhat expected it to be a diatribe against the homeless. Yet, it wasn’t.

From his statement…

"If someone tries hard in life and fails through bad luck or situation, we can use resources to help them. Resources are finite and there is no point helping those who will forever be a drain on society."

… it was apparent that he recognized that there are those within his community who have become homeless due to circumstances beyond their means to control. Moreover, he was able to differentiate between them and those are content to live on the fringes of society.

Although I believe that we should be willing to offer assistance to every homeless person, I am able to understand his point of view. After all, it does indeed seem pointless to offer help to someone who does not want to better their lives. Subsequently, using what resources are available to help those who want to escape homelessness would appear to be the wisest usage of funding.

Still, I can’t help but wonder: how do we determine who genuinely wants help and who doesn’t? Can we simply point to one person and declare them worthy of assistance and someone else as unworthy?

Surely, we cannot establish it purely on a person’s physical appearance. Nor can we make that decision on the basis of how long a person has been homeless. Furthermore, I don’t believe that we can make those determinations based on whether or not they have an addiction disorder.

The reality is that homelessness is a complex issue. It isn’t something for which there is a "one size fits all" solution. Each homeless person is an individual with needs specific to them.

Sam was correct when he pointed out that "… resources are finite" – which is perhaps the best argument regarding the need to engage in productive dialogue. Only by opening up the lines of communication can we determine how to best help the homeless and, as a result, utilize those limited resources to their optimum.

It seems strange to me that so many complain about the need to do something about the homeless. Yet, it is the lack of constructive dialogue which has precluded us from effectively addressing homelessness.

When it comes to developing genuine solutions to end homelessness, "mum’s the word" is definitely not the best approach.


Thank you for the comment and for the reply to my questions.

Best Regards,

– m –

  1. anamerican says:

    Currently in the US, we don’t have adequate resources to assist people who are homeless ..as you point out, it’s just not a priority of our society. However, if we did approach homelessness with the same commitment and financial backing that we have with our recent bail out of corporations (who were rewarded for bad decisions) then there would be a choice for those who wished to receive assistance.
    I think if our homeless citizens had the luxury of more supportive services, many would be able to find a way out ..and those who choose not to at least would be offered a choice. Personally, I think even those who are fighting drug/alcohol addictions as a reason at the core of their homeless status are deserving of a chance to receive help and a chance at a new way of life.

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