It would seem that the US has a new State – The State of HL or Homelessness. While leaders try to make the right decisions, scramble to raise more taxes and move the homeless away from ‘thriving’ businesses, it would appear that the issue is not being resolved and instead of less people living on the streets more and more are being added daily.
Now let’s agree on one thing – homelessness is a terrible thing. It is more than a person not having a home. It is a condition or state that equates to being helpless.
Every time I walk a street and see a homeless person lying there in cardboard or in a makeshift home comprised of a tent or some blankets / plastic, my heart aches. As a young woman many years ago, I found myself in a situation where I had lost everything except the clothes I had on my back. They were desperate times. I understand the sense of hopelessness, shame and uncertainty that comes with losing your job, your home, your family and your dignity. Having no money or means to earn it, is a frightening place to be. A dwindling spiral with a one way street that goes only in one direction – downwards.
Miles of Heartbreak
Therefore, when I read this week that San Francisco has one of the fastest growing homeless populations in our nation my heart sank.
Many leaders struggle with decision making on a daily basis. It is understandable, and we can excuse some bad decisions made by those in authority because they are ‘only human’ after all and flawed just like the rest of us.
However, now and again an issue presents itself and a ‘solution’ is declared that you can hardly believe. One such decision was made this week. According to Mayor Mark Farrell, we are not to ‘worry’ any more regarding the fate of the homeless in San Francisco. This is because he has promised to engage in an ‘aggressive crackdown’ to clear the sidewalks of tent camps for good, with his ‘dedicated team.’
It is obvious that more is needed than just moving the problem along the street. So where will the homeless go? And why do I sense there is a finality in the Mayor’s declaration that lacks compassion.
Crackdown or Compassion?
During His ministry years, Jesus lived a nomadic lifestyle. Today He would be considered as homeless. In His own words Jesus states in Matthew 8:19-20: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Therefore, the homeless should have our special attention. As believers, we should not only pray for the homeless but act. Being homeless is a condition or state and in order to understand their predicament you must ask yourself a couple of key questions:
- How did that person become homeless?
- What perpetuates this condition?
The first can be answered with different answers. Abuse in the home, losing a job, divorce, debt, mentally ill, etc etc. And here is a scary fact – anyone can become homeless at any time. Also, homelessness does not discriminate. You will find a myriad of ex-professionals covered in plastic sheets and cardboard – fact.
Secondly, what perpetuates the state of the homeless. This is usually addiction in the form of drugs and alcohol.
This is best demonstrated if we venture a little farther north of San Francisco to Orange County. We find what has been called a ‘national disgrace’ of homeless people. A two-mile tent camp, just a short drive from Disneyland, is now in the process of being demolished. An army of trash trucks and contractors have been brought in to dispose of the aftermath which includes, 5000 hypodermic needles.
So where are the homeless being ‘evicted’ to and what will their fate entail? Many have been moved to overpopulated shelters and motel rooms. Taxes were raised last year in CA to help provide housing but with more and more tents going up in other major CA cities, it would appear that this is not getting to the core issue. California’s homeless stats are frightening accounting for 25% of the nations homeless.
Gluten Free Decisions
Homelessness it would appear has become the new pestilence on the West Coast particularly in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. It is one that just gets moved along to another area and never really resolves no matter how much money or investment is thrown at it. Spreading and mutating the ‘not wanted tag’ merges with the ‘not needed’ one. Homelessness has disgusted society so much that it has become an unwanted slur.
There may be tons of physical waste to be disposed off but tell me, how do you get rid of tons of self-worthlessness, self-destruction and self-denial? Is there something that we can do?
Perhaps we need some ‘gluten-free’ decisions by leadership for a start. Decisions void of stigma and judgement.
I believe that Jesus showed us the way.
Jesus taught us, that dignity and self-worth are important. He made no distinction between the different classes in society, and He taught us that restoration is impossible without hope.
He reached out to the shunned and impoverished with compassion and love. He brought them out of the spiritual and physical chasms and into the light where newly inspired individuals could embrace motivation and grow.
Perhaps I am just a dreamer. But maybe, just maybe with tons of love and compassion from their neighbors, the homeless person will take up their own bed and walk one day into a better life in this world. I know, because I did.
“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
This article was written by Karin McBride-Chenoweth, an award-winning writer, editor and publisher of Christian and secular works in Europe and the USA. Originally from Northern Ireland, Karin now lives in the USA.