Thursday, October 30, 2008

Number of homeless growing, or why homeless jokes bother me

Recently, I posted about a story in our local campus paper where they made a little joke about homeless people and dumspter diving. I saw this article in the USA Today on "Homeless numbers 'alarming,'" and I knew why that joke bothered me. The number of homeless in this country is growing, and it is not just the stereotypical "bums" and "winos" we think about often. As Wendy Koch's article points out, a lot of the new homeless are people who suddenly found themselves in dire straits. Often they are renters with a landlord that had the house or building foreclosed. The renters did nothing wrong; they paid their rent on time, so on, but through no fault of their own find themselves on the street. So, are we as a society expecting them, and many other homeless, often families with children, to simply go dumpster diving? Now some readers may say that the article deals with big cities, so it is obvious they will have homeless. But, we can look at these people as the canary in the mine. Guess where the situation may end up happening next? If you guessed smaller cities and towns, give yourself a prize. According to the article:

"'Everywhere I go, I hear there is an increase' in the need for housing aid, especially for families, says Philip Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates federal programs. He says the main causes are job losses and foreclosures."

This will get worse before it gets better. As the old saying goes, for those of you with more of a spiritual persuasion, "there but for the grace of God go I." What also moves me when I see pieces like these in newspapers like USA Today that allow reader comments is the constant lack of compassion. No sense of common good whatsoever from people who, though they claim to be much better off, I am willing to be if they used their real names, we would find out they are really a step away from a financial disaster themselves. And therein lies a lot of what is wrong with this nation these days. There is no sense that, when we help out those who are less fortunate, we are in reality helping out ourselves and all of us. Because, if the economic forecasts and numbers are any indication, things will get worse before they get better; today we had reports of the GDP decreasing as "Economy flashes recession signal" from USA Today. Even the rich are finding, according to Andrea Stone for USA Today too, that "Luxurious lifestyles take a hit." Now, I am sure the folks that merely have to trade in their expensive facelift for botox are not going to be homeless anytime soon, but I hope the picture is becoming clearer. If you still have a roof over your head and food on your table, consider yourself fortunate (thank your deity of choice if need be). The next time you could be the one on the street. Thus, show some compassion and human decency for a change. Just a thought.


waltc said...

You don't need to use a spiritual reference here. Phil Ochs said it in one of his more poignant songs... "There but for fortune, go you or I."

The most relevant verse: "Show me an alley, show me a train, show me a hobo who sleeps out in the rain, And I'll show you a young man with many reasons why, There but for fortune, go you or I."

Too many people live paycheck to paycheck--and no matter how long you've worked somewhere or what a reputation you've built, those paychecks can stop arriving.

(Joan Baez had a bigger hit with this song, but Ochs wrote it--and I prefer his version.)

Angel, librarian and educator said...

I am going to have to look the song up now. And true, so many living paycheck to paycheck, much due to the fact salaries just have not kept up (that issue could be a whole other post I am sure). And yes, that is the rub: the pay can stop anytime.

Thanks for stopping by Walt. Best, and keep on blogging.