What if That Were Your Sign?

What does his face look like behind that paper? Does it matter, or is he just another person blocking the sidewalk…

Homelessness has always deeply touched me, especially as a child. I can remember the complete bewilderment I experienced when I first asked my mom why that man was sitting in raggedy clothes against that building. Her reply that he was homeless made me shudder.

After years pass, I think we begin to desensitize to the pain of those around us as simply a fact: that man is homeless. It’s almost the same as saying she has black hair. It becomes a characteristic trait of who they are, rather than something that needs to be changed. We, as a society, should not be simply accepting this. It is a big job, and I don’t have all the answers. However, a group calling themselves “Preventing Homelessness in America” has taken this cause upon themselves.

“Between five and six hundred thousand people are considered “homeless” at any given time – without a “permanent, safe, decent, affordable place to live.” This is outrageous, period–let alone in a country where there is more than enough to go around.

The homeless also face persistent deprivation and constant threat of harm. They spend more time in the hospital and in jail than their poor counterparts. The majority are victims of violent crimes, and one fourth lack needed medical care and it is proven that homeless children perform worse in school, so the cycle continues.

The “National Coalition for the Homeless” supports fund-raising, volunteer efforts, and many practical work efforts to end homelessness and to offer them a way to go.

In addition to donating, smiling, helping, and meeting basic, “right-now” needs, this organization encourages advocacy for the homeless.

“Advocacy is critical to creating the systemic changes needed to end homelessness. Advocacy means working with people experiencing homelessness to bring about positive changes in policies and programs on the local, state, and federal levels. It means working with various sectors of the community (e.g. city/county officials, members of Congress, direct service providers, and the business community) to develop workable strategies for responding to homelessness.  It also means changing your language and behaviors in small ways that may contribute to larger changes in the way people experiencing homelessness are seen and treated in our society.”

Obama recently brought back the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance “HEARTH” Act of 1987 which encourages rapid housing as the first priority for the homeless, as well as their education, and increase in prevention of homelessness, and overall produces a desire to minimize homelessness.

All of these efforts, lobbyists, and legislations are not bringing about undue influence in shaping legislation, because that is what they are there for! If legislation does not care that thousands of citizens spend the night on the street with a growling stomach, and no hope to find a job as they have no residence or shower or suit in which to interview, then I must have a wrong idea about what legislation was designed for. No, we should not baby people, we should not give free hand-outs always and expect that nothing change. I believe that the government is there to make us better people as a whole. Giving someone who is experiencing homelessness a break could be the difference between them having the will to get back on their feet or curling up and accepting their future. We should care about people, and our government should spend more time developing plans which encompass a potential for steady incline and equal opportunity rather than just hand-outs. With the need growing so large, though, it can be easy to throw up your hands and not know what to do.

These groups seem to be very much about change in the community, rather than expecting the government to magically fix everything. This is very true. And, while, the government is incredibly important and should be involved in supporting homeless shelters and dire emergency answers, it’s important that we not rely on the government to fix everything because they aren’t on the street corner like we are. They don’t pass people everyday like we do. It is our job because we see it, and can physically do something in that situation. The government has only broad eyes, while we have a micro perspective on our community. It starts with us, and the government can hopefully support us through better employment, better housing, better taxing, and better messages being sent out by our leaders. But, when it comes down to it, it is our responsibility to care for one another. What if that were your sign–and people assumed you were lazy, untalented, and a bum?


About lilhanlin

I like to think of this blog as a beautiful connection between my life, personal convictions, and daily whims to whoever takes a moment to pause and read- even if it's only to myself re-reading it a few months later. Too many things keep expression trapped inside of us, and it's such a necessary element of life - to self-express and to see emotion released in its rawest, most authentic form. Writing allows us to do that - to take the time to articulate exactly what we feel or what we don't quite understand but must speak out.
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