i had been thinking about this around the edges for awhile now. but today on twitter i had a conversation...in brief spurts of course...each one at 140 characters or less. the lady i had the tweetversation with is not from the united states. but her thoughts about homeless had a universal ring to it. so it started me thinking. now sometimes on this blog my thoughts go alot faster than my fingers or my common sense. but this time i'm pretty clear about what i'm thinking and what i believe to be true.
you cannot end homelessness.
at least not the way most people think you can. you can't end it with money or federal funding. you can't end it with housing. you can't end it by planning. you can't end it with meetings and graphs and flow chart and demographics. you can't end it with awareness. you can't end it by burdening the system even further with what alot of people consider entitlements and social programs. you may make it easier. you may relieve the hardship. you may even save lives along the way. but you won't end it.
i've told you before i go to the no-bucks cafe in the mornings for coffee. i see homeless people every day there. for the most part...the same people. when someone stops coming abruptly or sort of disappears you can't help but take notice if you've been paying any attention at all. i pay attention. when someone disappears i ask around about them until i'm reasonably satisfied that they're ok. it's easy to disappear or even die without anyone realizing it when you're homeless. this morning i saw a man who had disappeared a few weeks ago. he was homeless and lived in the mission. he's not very old...maybe thirty or so. he didn't want to be at the mission...who would. he didn't want to be homeless.....who would. i'd see him in the mornings and he would have that look that alot of homeless people do......weariness...and frustration. i knew he was actively looking for a job. and he found one. now it had been a few weeks since i had seen him. but this morning he had a different look. the frustration was gone. his brow wasn't quite as wrinkled as the last time i had seen him. he didn't walk slowly or abit hunched over this morning. he walked upright....and with purpose. he smiled. i intentionally waited until he went outside and i followed him to say hello and see where he'd been. he smiled and said he was working. he just got a small apartment. he was....well...happy. he was proud. he was relieved. he seemed very thankful for what he had achieved. then he made the statement....i hope i never go back to the mission. i congratulated him and told him i was happy for him. i said...see ya....and walked away.
but i've been thinking about that and the conversation i had with the lady ....i think from england... this morning. you cannot end homelessness. but the homeless can end it themselves. this man holds the way to end homelessness.....it's called change. only the individual can end homelessness. noone can do it for them. this man regained his pride, his dignity, his path in life, and his own situation. he also transformed himself in the process. now don't get me wrong.....the homeless still need help. they still need that rope to grab onto. they still the basic survival things while they are homeless. they still need your help in the interim period. but noone can end their situation...except themself. it's the human spirit of resilience and hope that will end homelessness. it's that never ending sense that it can and will get better if i just keep trying that will end homelessness. it's that spark that's breathed into each of our hearts when we are born that will end homelessness. it's a job and a sense of purpose and accomplishment that will end homelessness. no amount of government assistance and no program or planning council can hold a candle to that drive that's within each of us. it just needs to be reignited in the homeless.
you can help. be aware of the homeless. if you get a chance....give one a chance. if you're an employer...try a homeless person. donate to an organization that helps the homeless...by action and doing....not by planning and counseling. make a difference in a person. watch them change. it might just create a wave that even twitter has never seen.
see you around town