the homeless are called a lot of different names, most of them bad or insulting. they are lumped into one large group and thought of as drug addicts, alcoholics, misfits, mentally ill or suffering from some other form of affliction whether it be physical or psychological. they are thought of as a nuisance, a bother and generally someone you would rather not have to be aware of, much less associate with or take into any sort of serious consideration. they are thought of as being unworthy of your time, attention or conversation. they are not deserving or worthy of your time, help or your compassion except fleetingly at holidays.
homelessness has been around for decades as we know it today. it has been shoved aside, swept under a bridge or hidden in the park behind some bushes. it has been something we just had rather not talk about, much less become involved in. but now, the sheer numbers and the recognition of the problems and suffering of the homeless have become too visible, too mainstream and too close to home to ignore any longer. we can no longer turn our head and look away because in any direction you look, in any part of the city...there they are. when you go on the internet you cannot escape them. the news is full of reports concerning the homeless. they are now an open and not so hidden part of our society that we cannot pretend doesn't exist. they are in our neighborhoods, our communities, our schools, our churches and in some cases right in the area we work or live in. with so many women and children now being homeless, we can no longer pretend that the faces of the homeless are men with beards holding a beer can or vodka bottle slumped on the sidewalk in ragged clothes. we can no longer ignore that the suffering and anxiety of being homeless has reached into our next generation with so many young children and teens experiencing homelessness. we can no longer pretend. we can no longer ignore. we can no longer be deaf to the cries of our country's children.
with the numbers ranging anywhere from 650 thousand to well over 3 million depending on what definition of homeless you use and what group of the homeless you are including, we still have not developed a comprehensive, common sense and affordable strategy to deal with homelessness. we still have no comprehensive policy or program to deal with the the numbers that we are experiencing today. we have agencies with fragmented strategies and obtuse policies and ideas, but no real concrete plan that we can agree on. aren't the men, women and children who have fallen victim to the tragedy of homelessness at least worth a national, organized, non political and consistent effort to solve the issue?
we toss money at the problem pretending this will make it better for the homeless, but it seems the more we spend the more negligible the results.
when it comes to homelessness and the homeless, there are many unanswered questions. really, i should say there are many unasked questions. asking the right questions would be too uncomfortable and we would have to recognize and admit that we have been and still are wrong about the homeless, what we can and should do for them and what we cannot and should not do for them. i think by failing to ask these questions is one reason we continue to generalize our perceptions of the homeless and what we can do to alleviate the situation they are in. we over complicate the issue of homelessness while at the same time too often simplifying the issues that were a catalysts of becoming homeless. too often we confuse the day to day physical, emotional, mental and social stresses of being homeless with the root causes of homelessness. too often we confuse the drug addict with the mentally ill. too often we confuse the disabled with the alcoholic. too often we confuse those who need immediate relief with those who have chosen to be homeless either by their actions or their lack of accountability for their choices. the result of making these miscalculations and misunderstandings can be and often are devastating. too many times they are fatal.
we should recognize that the catalysts for becoming homeless are many and they are multilayered. the core causes of homelessness are simple and few. the men, women and children who experience homelessness are not simple. they are complicated human beings with real emotions, needs, wants, aspirations and desires. just like you and i. we have to find a way to recognize this and understand this before we can find a solution. i understand this. i recognize this. i was homeless. i lived this. let's start asking the correct questions and fully expecting the truthful answers. then we can begin a true path to reducing or ending homelessness as we know it today.
see you around town