Yesterday, I saw a lady with a sign while driving down the main street of my city. Her sign read "Family needs work for food and bills." This isn't very common in South Orange County. Chances are, she wasn't even homeless. She didn't look it at last, she just looked like she had fallen on tough times.
The fact that she was able to put aside her pride astounds me. My heart went out to her. It just breaks my heart to see the way this economy has debilitated us, although things are moving forward.
What really gets my panties in a bunch though, is that Americans as a whole seem particularly numb, or oblivious to those who've met misfortune within our country. We have no problem donating to help the unfortunate outside our boundaries - sending so much to those without clean water (yet we have people here without clean water), to those suffering from diseases (yet Americans are not immune to these diseases), etc. I'm not saying that our help is bad. On the contrary, I've just always been a firm believer in fixing our country - our people - before we face the world's problems. How are we to stand undivided when we are not helping those around us?
I hate driving to Irvine and seeing the complete lack of homeless. But wait, isn't that a good thing if no one is homeless? Au contraire, mes petits amis, there are no homeless because they are transported out of the city. Even more unfortunately, this is not just a problem in Irvine. It's across the country.
The media of course, feeds this stigma. (Much as I strive to be a part of it, I loathe it all the same.) The focus is on helping the world with endorsements from Brangelina, U2 and the like. A sorry attempt to bring our own problems to light can be seen through the Keeping Up With The Kardashians episode when they "adopt" a homeless man from outside of Dash. They "fix him up," give him new teeth (so very important?!) and then drive him to the shelter to find a home?!
How does this help him in the long term? No one facilitated anything of use - how is he supposed to pay the rent on the home? He was given a fish, it fed him for a few days. If he had been taught to fish, he could love on his own.
Sometimes people just need a little motivation - someone to believe in them. Not every homeless person is a druggy or an alcoholic. There are some, yes, but this is not an all inclusive group. Many homeless have fallen on tough times (see the article on people living in their cars but still working, this is just one of many) and many have some sort of disability - mental or physical.
Why don't we have more programs to help? Or rather, more effective programs? Is it a pride thing, America? We cannot just sweep this under a rug.
Another thing that really annoys me is the negative connotation associated with the words we use to describe those unfortunate enough to know have a roof over their head. "Homeless" implies they are without a home. Home is not a physical location. These people are without a roof. "Bum" implies laziness. Vagabond. Squatter. ETC. The list goes on. There are far too many stigma for them to overcome.
I cannot lie, I too have been guilty of homeless discrimination. For the past year I have and an intense fear of the homeless. Some would say it rational (seeing as they lit my house on fire) but I see it as irrational. An entire of group of individuals were not responsible for it. Three were. Prior to this instance I would engage in conversation and buy food for those I encountered. I cannot teach them some task to help them break free, but I could help them immediately and offer hope.
I am thankful my new job allows me to converse with some homeless people. Though this seems strange to be thankful for. But it's helping me better myself and overcome my fears. Like always, I hope I've been able to positively impact their lives, at least to help them through one more day.
This blog was not meant to judge the people of Orange County or the US, but to merely raise awareness to this issue. The people of Orange County / America could be helping. Overall though, what does our message of neglect send to the children?