East or West Home is the best! No matter where we are; be it in the comforts of a friend’s home or a luxurious guest house, at the end of the day when we are tired from our long sojourns we all crave the comforts of our own home. The joy and reassurance that comes from being under the safe confines of one’s home are incomparable to anything else in the world.
But imagine a life, where you did not have a “home” to go back to? Imagine having to face the forces of nature as well as the scorn of other humans by having to sleep the nights curled up in back alleyways, tunnels and subways. Imagine having to scour other people’s trash for fulfilling one’s basic needs.
I know it is not a pleasant thought, and I apologize about asking you to imagine it. Unfortunately for a lot of people this is not an imagination, it is an unfortunate reality. Homelessness is more rampant that we care to admit. And although we see a lot more homeless men, the truth is that women, children as well as entire families are often caught into the throes of homelessness.
Here is a picture of a homeless woman crossing a major intersection that caught my attention this morning. It seemed to me that the bags in her hand that she was so passionately pulling across the street possibly constituted her sole possession in life.
Unlike popular belief, homeless people are not homeless because of choice or by birth. More and more people join the homeless numbers every year, due to some unfortunate events.
According to the Homeaid.org website there are many causes for homelessness. Homelessness can be caused by “tragic life occurrences like the loss of loved ones, job loss, domestic violence, divorce and family disputes. Other impairments such as depression, untreated mental illness, post traumatic stress disorder, and physical disabilities are also responsible for a large portion of homeless.” (http://www.homeaid.org/homeaid-stories/69/top-causes-of-homelessness).
Needless to say, homelessness and poverty go hand in hand. People who live from hand to mouth can easily be pushed into homelessness by job loss, sudden sickness, accident etc. I wonder if the high rate of inflation, high cost of living and an equally high unemployment rate as well as continuous decline in manufacturing jobs are factors that further push people closer to the poverty line. Because a large number of manufacturing jobs keep moving overseas, the low income wage earner finds it harder to stay employed. Is it my imagination that the middle class is shrinking in numbers? The poor get poorer and the rich get richer, meanwhile the middle class is corroding and possibly joining the ranks of the poor, as salaries and jobs fail to rise in comparison to the high cost of living.
The reasons for homelessness are many. But the million dollar question is, “What can we do about it?”
This is a mighty problem we face. Before we jump in to suggesting solutions, it is important to remember; that “Homelessness” is not merely about a condition in which one is homeless, but more importantly it is about self insufficiency or the inability to provide for oneself due to any number of causes. Although the individual and the state jointly own the lion share of providing its people with affordable housing and subsidy programs, all of us as fellow citizens and neighbors have a responsibility to fulfill as well.
Help people help themselves. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life. If you can, carve some time out of your busy life and donate your time to charities, schools, local institutions to help people in need. Teach children and young adults a new trade. Donate your time to help others, teach them whatever you are good at.
Donate goods, food and time to charities. Most of us are good about saving our well used items and donating them. I do not support donating dollar bills to homeless people as I worry it may promote rather than hinder poverty, however any act done out of kindness is better than nothing.
Be kind. Above all treat people with respect and kindness, the same respect that you would like to receive. Sometimes a simple word of kindness goes a long way in warming a distressed heart. I feel no words can explain it better than these simple words from the Bible, “Do to others as you would have them do to you”.
Give people a second chance. A lot of times people make mistakes and get into trouble. Being involved in Bankruptcy, foreclosure, lawsuit and or having a criminal record can mar a person’s chances for employment for years. But isn’t America supposed to be the land of opportunities? If a person made a mistake once, but has paid his/ her dues and taken steps to work on improving one’s situation then they should be offered a second chance. Employers should consider people with a less than glowing background a chance at improving their lives. Not giving them a second chance will only cause them to go further into the dark dungeon they just came out of.
None of these acts alone, may be enough to end homelessness but we cannot shun responsibility entirely simply because a perfect solution may not yet be in sight. We can continue to work with charities to see how we can further prevent more people from falling below the poverty line and into the throes of homelessness.
Remember that the homeless man or woman you see on the streets could well have been you or me, with a simple twist of fate. Let’s do our best today and every day to help others around us. Even small drops of kindness can fill an ocean of love. Do you have a story to share on this subject? Do you have an idea how we can play our part in helping homelessness and ameliorating poverty in our neighborhood? If so, I look forward to hearing from you.
Picture Courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homelessness