Monday, March 1, 2010

Looking for Answers to the Homeless Question...

Our city just passed a camping ban a couple weeks ago. It was in response to what is being called, "Tent City." Many homeless have set up camp along a creek bed and as that population grows some have felt that a ban on camping is the answer. Now, those people will be fined and forced to move. I don't even see where this ban is enforceable. If these people had money they wouldn't be down there. You can't get blood from a turnip, ya know? So... they don't pay the fine and are carted off to jail? The jails don't have room! The shelters don't have room!


The fact is that once you cross a certain line in our society it is almost impossible to cross back over.

This past weekend I took a homeless gal to look at an apartment. She had walked several miles to a parking lot near a park where a group I'm involved with serves breakfast to the homeless on Saturdays. Bus service on Saturdays and Sundays was part of our city's budget cuts this year and it would have taken her an hour and a half to walk to the apartment. It was a studio the size of my son's bedroom that was going for $400 a month. The building was clean and I could see the gal was excited about it. Then she was informed that they do not rent to anyone with any prior evictions. She has two.

Each of the people I've met has a different story. There is a homeless subculture... a community. Many of them know and look out for each other. In many ways they are like a family. Yes, there are bad homeless people. There are also homeless people that aren't.

What gives life value? Do the homeless still have value? Do they matter? Do we look at them and see nothing but waste... or do we look beyond that and see a human being that is hurting? When is a person beyond redemption and who of us is worthy of making that judgment call?

When I was 9 years old my aunt sat us down and told us the story of Stone Soup. It made a real impression on me. I don't recall being told a story in that way prior to that day. There was no book and no pictures to look at. She captivated me as she wove through the story and my imagination brought forth pictures in my mind.

The story was about a village of people that were starving. A man went to the center of the village, built a fire, filled a big pot full of water and set about making soup. He threw in some stones. The villagers peered out of their windows trying to figure out what he was up to. Eventually some of them came out and asked. He told them he was making a delicious stone soup. He remained intent as he stirred and the villagers watched. He breathed in the aroma and spoke often of how good the soup was going to be. Then he said to himself that he wished he had some onions for the soup. One of the villagers said he had some onions if he was willing to share the soup with him. The man was.

My aunt continued to tell the story using different voices for each of the villagers that had something else to add to the pot. In the end the entire village was fed and it started with a man that had nothing. I've never forgotten that story.

I know some would look at that story and say it is a good example of how if everybody gives a little bit all of the people can be taken care of and then see taxes and government as a way to accomplish that. I don't.

The government does have its place, as do taxes. However, the more taxes we pay and the bigger government gets... the more we lose our freedom.

In the story, it was the villagers' choice to contribute to the pot. Was it possible that there were villagers that were hoarding vegetables in their cellars? Yes.

I don't have any answers. I am looking for them. I'm trying to get a handle on what services are available, both governmental and privately funded. I'm looking to truly understand the culture and the truth about homelessness.

The man who started the ministry I am now involved in felt led to move into a tent amongst the homeless. I, like one of the villagers from the story, have come out to see what he is doing.

What are your thoughts?


Roland Hulme said...

Wow, what a brilliant post!

I don't know if you saw me mention it, but two weeks or so ago I volunteered at our church's homeless shelter and it was an incredible experience. It was a men's shelter and i was amazed at the fact that all the guys were clean, well dressed, smart and articulate and the majority of them had jobs. They were just a paycheque or two in the hole and wound up with nowhere to stay. I remember writing 'We're all only a paycheque away from where they are' and then promptly lost my job so maybe I should stop philosophizing if this is the result!

I don't know what to say. I was about the write that I'd never seen as many homeless people as in America, but I see just as many beggars in England. It's no exaggeration, though, that many of the beggars in England live on welfare, have houses and just beg to supplement their welfare income. I remember seeing one 'homeless' guy arrested in Winchester and he told the cops he had to go and lock his car before they arrested him!!!

In America, in Penn Station and Grand Central, there are REAL homeless people who have nowhere else to go.

But what my experience with church taught me is that they're all human. In fact, they're not so different from you and I.

paul mitchell said...

Since you asked.

Reopen the insane asylums that the Democrats forced to be closed down. Then start arresting the vagrants and call them bums.

To solve Roland's jobless problem, never vote for another Democrat as long as you live.

Yes, that makes me heartless and cruel.

Coffee Bean said...


Thanks for sharing your experience. It is interesting when you see things for yourself. I'm sorry about your job and y'all are in my prayers!


I understand your opinion. The fact is that many of those that are homeless do suffer from varying degrees of mental illness. Homelessness really is a complicated issue. They all don't fit neatly into a box where you can use a one size fits all solution.

I met a single mother on Saturday that had her 9 year old son with her. I was finding out what some of the specific needs were. You might be surprised to know that the majority of the people I speak to ask for very little. She asked for chap stick for her son. Her son asked me to pray that they would find a home. The mother has to be in her forties, is clean, articulate, and didn't seem all that different from me. She was laid off and hasn't been able to find another job. I'm sure there is more to the story... there always is. However, they definitely do not fit the stereotypical homeless profile.

The mentally ill need help. They cannot snap out of it and make better choices... what do we, as a society, do? Re-open government run asylums and pull them off the streets? What would the deciding criteria be for them losing their rights? Being homeless? If you are homeless would we have forced psych evaluations? Many of these people are harmless. Some are not.

I don't know what the answers are. I see so many people that I think can be helped. I believe the best help comes in the form of helping them help themselves. You know... the old give a man food feed him for a day... teach him to fish and feed him for life principle.

paul mitchell said...

CB, I know that my statement seems cruel. But, when you know that woman and that little boy lost everything because of the Democrats, not voting for Democrats seems to be the solution for them. But....

I am advocating a government solution that SHOULD work well. Round up everyone that is not surviving. Everyone. Take them somewhere to actually go through, case by case, and see what the needs are. To me, allowing someone to sleep on the riverbank is inhumane if those people are not choosing that.

If they are choosing that, then the chances that they have serious drug and alcohol problems or mental illness.

The way that I think is that if someone is living life like that, they are either at their financial end OR they are nuts. Refusing to vote for Democrats solves the first, opening the metal health centers that Democrats closed in the late 1960s, because of lack of funds (which they spent on welfare programs for deadbeats) answers the second.

Coffee Bean said...

I understand what you are saying Paul and I just think you are blunt in your opinions... not cruel.

However, you are being overly simplistic with the don't vote Democrat schtick. The judicial and legislative processes in this country are excrutiatingly drawn out. People need help now.

paul mitchell said...

I know that it might seem that 'do not elect Democrats' is simplistic, but there is a very strange parallel here. Check it.

Strange, huh?

Coffee Bean said...

You crack me up Paul! Of course, you have a link to a site that backs up what you are saying!

My point is that changing that will take time. People that are homeless need help now. Some of them have been out there a long time and it is their way of life. Some of them are new to it and if they can be helped before they cross the point of no return it would be better for all to get them turned back around.

paul mitchell said...

Yeppers, I agree they need help now. Round them up, let's get on it. And start a recall ballot right now where you are. We can get this done before the Democrats have any more time to destroy what remains of the economy. Why wait for the feckless federal government to do it? If the fed is involved, it shall cost twenty times what we will spend and take forever to accomplish nothing. Just like welfare has.

One Salient Oversight said...

I just popped by to see what Paul would say. Fairly stereotypical.

paul mitchell said...

Thanks, OSO, I try to keep my string of being right all the time unbroken. So far, so good.

Coffee Bean said...


I'm interested in your thoughts on this! Is there a homeless population in Australia or do they have a handle on that?

Susanne said...

Great post. I've been thinking of helping out at the soup kitchen in town. Maybe I'll do that. Thanks for what you shared here.

I'll be on the lookout for those making stone soup and see what I can share.