when i was a child we played on a see-saw...or a teeter totter as some call it. one kid would sit on each end of the see-saw and raise each other up and down. sometimes one kid would jump off when the other was high in the air, leaving him to fall rapidly to the ground. the bump would be painful when you hit bottom. at various times in life we may feel the ups and downs, much like riding the see-saw with a playmate. we trust the other to be there with us when we're low and raise us up slowly to a high position. when we're in that high position we trust the playmate to be there with us when the see-saw slowly comes down to the bottom. but when life takes a wrong turn and your playmate suddenly isn't there, you come crashing down to the ground. we feel the pain as we hit bottom with noone on the other end to raise us back up. we watch as the playmate walks away while we sit there experiencing the pain of crashing down.
i think this is the sort of emotion the homeless often feel. they feel like they've crashed to the ground and are experiencing the pain and realization that someone has walked away from them at the low point and while feeling the pain of crashing suddenly to the ground. to complicate the situation they often feel betrayed and misled about the help and services available to them. homeless people don't have a house or a shelter to call their own. it doesn't mean their reasoning or the ability to recognize untruths or condescending statements have diminished. we have let the homeless down. we have let the homeless down with false statements of hope. we have failed to be honest with them and they know it. it's no wonder why many homeless are mistrustful of agencies and organizations that exist to help them. they've heard the optimistic words and promises that help is close...that a solution and a way out of being homeless is near. but as time passes, these words and these promises become empty words that remain a reminder that they are alone in their struggle. the homeless read newspapers and watch television. they see the misguided statements about the poor and the homeless by politicians and they are aware of the debates about helping them or abandoning them. they hear the names and descriptions used when speaking of them. they are aware of the programs, both current and in the past and the results of those programs, both positive and negative.
it's time to stop fooling ourselves. the end to homelessness is not near. there is no answer in sight. we need to be honest as a government, as a politician, as a community and as individuals that we have failed the poor and the homeless miserably. we have implemented ten year plans, numerous programs and have expended a large amount of capital and resources with very little progress on reducing homelessness or addressing the causes effectively. we have let the federal government and various agencies attempt to solve a problem that should be and only can be addressed at a local level by city governments and organizations that are familiar with the unique problems and personalities of a community. we have raised them up on the see-saw during times when the poor and homeless are a popular political topic, only to jump off the see-saw during times when austerity and the debates on social safety net programs become popular. as individuals, when that see-saw crashes to the ground, we stand by idly and sympathize with the pain that is felt while not jumping on the see saw to raise them back up.
we need to stop this see-saw effect when it comes to the homeless. we need to rethink our agencies, our policies and our dealings with the homeless. we need to stop grandiose plans and programs and use some common sense approaches. above all we need honesty. we need to make everyone aware that we have no final solution, but we will do our best to help as many individuals as we possibly can with the resources that we have. we need to begin to make some substantive and quantitative results when it comes to not only housing the homeless, but offering them the support and services to allow them to remain in a home and treat their addiction, find help for the mental illness or overcome whatever personality trait or physical flaw that is hindering them from living a normal and full life.
spring has indeed arrived. it's time for a new season in our approach to helping and speaking with the homeless also. honestly is always the best approach. maybe it's time we rebrand our thinking and instead of housing first.....we use the battle sound of.....honesty first.
see you around town