Monday, August 25, 2014

The Least of These

Homeless on the streets of Atlanta (credit:http://committeeforabetteratlanta.org/)
You have seen them when you walk the streets of the larger cities: Washington, DC, Atlanta, GA, Austin, TX, St. Petersburg, Fl, the list goes on and on. You see their stack of overstuffed bags, or an old worn suitcase, or a tattered backpack. You notice their tattered and stained clothing. You decide to avoid eye contact. Just stare at the ground to you get by and they will not bother you. One may call to you, "Can you help me with money for lunch?" You ignore them and walk on, quickening your pace. You catch a whiff that tells you they have not had a shower in a few weeks. They make you uncomfortable, and you wish they would just go away. How do you know if you gave them money that they would not buy liquor or crack with it? It is a growing problem, and several cities have decided to solve it. Their solution: make the homeless go away. Make it illegal to put up a tent under a bridge or in a public park.

Homeless Encampment - Atlanta, 2014 (credit: Weslee Knapp)
A few years ago, the city of St. Petersburg, FL took an active stance to solve the problem in their city. Watch for yourself.

January 19, 2007

Georgia DOT sent bulldozers in to clear out the tents of 40 homeless camping under I-75/I-85 and I-20 on January 14, 2014. GDOT Sends Bulldozers for 40 Homeless Camping Under I-75/85 and I-20 The bulldozers and GDOT employees hauled off tents, blankets, jackets, and what little possessions these people owned. Two weeks later, Atlanta was hit with a winter storm that closed the city. FOX NEWS WEATHER CENTER Rare winter storm leaves students, drivers stranded in Deep South

Well, those people would be better off in a shelter, you think. Maybe so, if there was enough shelter space in Atlanta to house all of the homeless individuals in the city. But there is not. 

"According to homeless census data estimates, more than 10,000 people in metro Atlanta experience homelessness on any given night, with more than 40 percent being women and children. A comprehensive, three-county survey of Atlanta's homeless shelters found a shortage of 1,700 beds for all single homeless people, including children and youth."homeaidatlanta.org

A shortage of 1,700 beds means 1,700 people in Atlanta had to face the elements during the Winter storm that stranded drivers and clogged interstates. And at least 40 were without blankets or temporary shelter thanks to the government's attempt to solve homelessness.

We must put down all of our preconceived ideas why people are  homeless, and recognize that every homeless person is in fact a person. They have a story. They have a story worth telling. They have value. Not everyone that is homeless is a crack addict, or too lazy to work. In fact, in today's society there are people who are working at minimum wage jobs and cannot afford housing. In fact, to afford a two bedroom apartment in Atlanta, a person would have to work 85 hours a week for 52 weeks a year. So where do the minimum wage laborers live?

This year, an experiment was conducted in Austin, TX. They took a homeless man and bought him a suit and then filmed people's reactions to him when he asked for spare change. They then had him do the same thing in the same area of town in his regular clothing. The results speak for themselves.

The Real Homeless Man Experiment - July 2014

Solving our nation's homeless crisis will not be accomplished by criminalizing homelessness. It will be done by providing them assistance. Helping them with food, shelter, clothing, resume preparation, and job skills training. That will not happen until we begin to look at them as human beings - people - not bums. We will have to bring ourselves to say, "there but by the grace of God go I." Many of us are just a few weeks away from being in their shoes. For the last 5 years, millions of homes have been foreclosed and families have been sent scrambling. Some of slept in cars (illegal in many cities). Some have slept in the floor of a generous individuals apartment. Our local, state, and federal governments will not solve hunger or homelessness in this country. It will only be solved by the compassion of you and I.





I greatly admire those who are pursuing opportunities to actually help solve the homeless problem instead of trying to run people out of their towns. One such group is Mobile Loaves and Fishes and what they are doing with the Community First! project. They have obtained 27 acres outside of Austin, TX and are placing tiny homes, refurbished RVs, along with a central shower and laundry facility. Additionally, they are arranging for dentist, doctors, and therapists to come to the property to provide free services to the residents. 


Community First! Village

Other organizations in other cities are attempting similar solutions. This past week, USA Today ran this article: 

These are the type of solutions that will help turn the tide of homelessness, because they value the individuals and work to restore their dignity and self-esteem.



-Peace



1 comment:

Bill (cycleguy) said...

Thanks for the eye-opener Allen. It is easy to forget it exists. We think of big cities and forget the little ones also have the same issue. Not sure what can be done here or how much of a problem we have since I don't hear or read about it, but it is worth a look see.