Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's Not a Wonderful Life: the Plight of the Homeless

Last Christmas our church hosted an elaborate banquet for the homeless. Catered, decked out and decorated. A friend created a video of the church's outreach to the homeless and showed clips of our serving weekly breakfasts and then the banquet. There is a scene where the homeless are standing outside the church office, from which we serve them breakfast each Sunday. It's cold, and early in the morning. Men and women huddled in their sweatshirts, winter coats, whatever they can wrap around themselves. The Apollo Theater is next door, and their large marquee hangs above the sidewalk. This video shot shows a bunch of homeless people standing under the theater marquee which was promoting the currently showing movie--It's A Wonderful Life. Go figure.

What a sad irony. Nothing wonderful about life for them. For many of us middle and middle/upper class life, for the most part, is wonderful. Yes, we have our mortgage payments, and worries and health concerns, but, typically, life is good--really good.

I met a man this morning, maybe in his fifties. Told me this is his second day being homeless. He's staying at a rescue mission. Ii asked him how he ended up here. He was a cabbie, and for reasons undisclosed he lost his driver's license, which, in turn, caused him to lose his job, which resulted in him losing his apartment and "everything I had." And there he sat, eating some eggs and hash browns we'd fixed him.

How will he ever rebound? Will someone ever take a chance with the guy? Will he have the determination to look at his current predicament as a brutal means, rather than a terrible end? Will this cause him to do some introspection and make some possibly need adjustments in his life, or will this massive disappointment hurl him into self-sabotaging ways of numbing himself against the pain?

It remains to be seen. Hopefully through our meager efforts we can assure him once a week that he hasn't been discarded or forgotten. If you see a homeless person this week, please don't dismiss him. Don't flip her off without knowing her story.

I hope that someday my new friend can again echo Jimmy Stewart's sentiments.


Anonymous said...

Many would have a similar story if not for their family. Sad that he either has no family or has burned bridges with them. Either way, he needs help and I am glad your church is walking the walk, not just talking the talk. We should never judge (I need to work on this I know) because we never know what that person has gone through (and simply because God tells us not to). God Bless you and your church family. Sharon A.

Anonymous said...

Something occured to me...I live in a small town, and I never see homeless people in a small town. Do they exist? Do they move to larger cities in an effort to find jobs or shelter? Do they have an informal safety net that prevents homelessness in the first place?

Bongo said...

How does anyone become homeless...that man explained the way ..on his 2nd day homeless he shared his recent journey to homelessness.. It's the story for each homeless person.. some details may be different but the main story is the same..And they are here among us...and growing everyday...My dream is and has been that is everyone who has something shares that with one someone then we all would have enough..there are lot's of things we can share with others.. not just finances.. but there is love.. there is an ear to listen with .. and their are arms to hug with.. ahhh but it's just a dream..

Anonymous said...

Bongo, As far as I am concerned, it's an attainable dream. I think we need to start with having tolerance. Without that, we become Sisyphus. I can tell you how my homeless clients became homeless if you would like, also. How more than fifty percent of all homeless are mentally ill in some form and lack of "good" treatment and lack of tolerance is a huge precipitating factor.

Steve said...

MM, here's my take on your questions. A person may end up homeless in a small town but doesn't remain there because:
1. typically no shelter(s) that a more urban area would provide.
2. More resources in general at their disposal (clothing, job potential, social services)
3. more potential for networking yet, ironically, for some a desired anonymity (due to the shame or embarrassment) that cannot be obtained in a small town.
That's just my assessment; may be on target, maybe not. thanks for your input.

Anonymous said...

I work at a county clinic in a small town. With the change in the welfare entitlement laws, people started becoming homeless because of the discretionary benefits limits. Then the economy tanked to boot. Our homeless seem invisible bc they dress well usually and appear no different than anyone else. They have no where to live however and have no income. They get sanctioned by DSS for any number of reasons and cannot get benefits for that reason as well. I work with the mentally ill and addicted. They are not good with keeping appts. You can be sanctioned for a long time for missing 1 appt at DSS. Some go to bars and find someone who will let then crash on their sofa for the night. Some live in tents in the woods. Some sleep in abandoned buildings. Their mother may let them stay with then for a night. Mothers who are weary from their repeated arrests and other behaviors of addicts and mentally ill. Yes, we arrest our mentally ill when they don't even know up from down! We have a couple of drug and rodent infested apartment buildings that DSS will put them up in if they can get benefits. If I didn't work where I do, I would tell you we have no homeless.