Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps

Today I'm worrying about the homeless--seems I always have something to worry about. But America has long nourished a Horatio Alger kind of mentality--Go West, young man, and make your fortune. Anyone can succeed in America--just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get on with it. You'll be rich in no time.
Well, you know what, folks? It isn't true anymore. There are too many in our society who cannot do that because they're veterans with PTSD, or they're mentally incompetent, or they're drug addicts (don't condemn until you've walked a mile in their moccasins). As a result, America has a tremendous problem with the homeless population. And we're not dealing with it well.
I'm appalled at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where a 90+ year-old man was arrested for feeding the homeless. Some suggested if he hadn't done it in a park, it would have been all right, but from reports I've read, place wasn't the issue. It is against the law in Fort Lauderdale to feed the homeless.
Now I know this is a nation of diversity but many of our politicians spout a line of Christian values--okay, folks, what's one big thing Jesus was known for? Fishes and loaves. And what does the statue say at Ellis Island--"Bring me your hungry, your tired, your poor."
In a small town in California, Weatherford, it's now against the law for the homeless to camp anywhere, even on private property with permission. And they've locked all the public restrooms. I don't care what religion you are, compassion is compassion--and that isn't it.
Our homeless need our help, not laws to ostracize them. What would these local governments do? Have us create one huge colony, perhaps in the still-vast plains of the West or Midwest and herd all the homeless there to die of starvation and thirst?
That is not what America is about, not the values our country was founded on. The homeless need our help, whether it be care facilities, mental health treatment, whatever. Many groups, foundations, etc. do serve that population--Presbyterian Night Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, Union Gospel Mission, Catholic Charities and many others--and that's just in my home town. But all these agencies can't begin to meet the overwhelming need.
I have a friend who has worked with the homeless and gotten to know some of them. She sees them as individuals with hopes and fears and dreams, not as part of a forgotten population. America, while arguing about the Keystone pipe line and tax breaks for the rich, needs to come to real grips with the problems of poverty and homelessness in our very own America. Do I know the answer? Of course not. But wiser heads than mine can figure it out. What I know is something needs to be done about it, and not yesterday.

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