A Portrait of the Homeless


A Portrait of the Homeless

I love the homeless, but never give money to panhandlers. While this statement may seem contradictory to many, it is the first feeling that begets the other. My close friends know this about me; I make no secret of it. I love the homeless and it is out of that love that I REFUSE to be an enabler. I refuse to support drug or alcohol problems that create the continuality of conditions. I refuse assist already service-resistant, chronically homeless populations to remain on the street. I also understand that there are often real mental illnesses that prevent many from seeking or even wanting shelter and I again refuse to support this behavior. It saddens me and breaks my heart to walk down the streets of skid row and see men, often with the same shade of skin as mine, in such dire situations.

I often hear people say that “No one wants to be homeless” but after years of working with the homeless I disagree. There are populations that seek the streets. It is my understanding of this concept that both saddens and angers me. It angers me because I absolutely abhor the fact that the man on the corner with a “Disabled Vet” sign, and the man at the gas station trying to wash your windows, or even the lady in front of the store begging for money with her kids lined up besides her, are the face of homelessness that you think about when you hear the term.

Tonight I spent my evening at a shelter for homeless mother’s book club. I watched women clutch their babies in the arms and cry over a story that was intended to be fictional, but their own lives and experiences blurred that line. I watched a young girl, barley 20, cry at the mere thought that you learn how to be a mother from your mother because as an orphan who grew up in foster care, she never had a mother. These are the faces I want you to see the next time you think about the homeless. The mother desperate for a better life for her kids than she lived, the woman who summoned the courage to leave her abusive husband for the sake of her children, the man who lost his job and despite all his attempts could not find another one, the senior citizen who could not survive on their social security check, the ex-con (yes I said it) who has paid for his mistake and wants to turn his life around only to find the world unforgiving and unwilling to allow him to make a livable wage. These are the faces of the homeless. These are the real people that make you say… “There but for the grace of God go I.”

So the next time you driving off the freeway and you feel the urge to give the man a little change, I ask that you don’t. I ask that you put that money in a jar or get together with a group of your friends and give it to any of the legitimate organizations in Los Angeles that are fighting to end homelessness. Or get together with me during the Holidays; I always give food, clothes, school supplies and other stuff. Hit me up if you want to know where to donate…or if you would like to adopt a room at this shelter.

Shaun

FYI, on December 21 (the longest day of the year), 2007 a poem I wrote was featured on the Annual Homeless Memorial Program. The event honors those who died during the past year in the Skid Row area. Please see it below:

The Longest Night
On this Longest Night,
No winter chills my bones,
No sorrow fills my thoughts,
For I am now at home.

Solace I give to thee,
Teardrops that fall today,
Shall shatter on the grounds we walked,
Of which we paved the way.

For they looked my way but only saw
The outer shell of me,
They closed their eyes, turned their heads,
Then stepped right over me.

They looked my way but did not see,
A way to ease my plight,
They closed their eyes, turned their heads,
And left me to the night.

But stars that shined so brightly,
Even under darkened skies,
Will light a path audaciously,
On this Longest Night.

Forget me not this winter,
Nor summer, spring, or fall,
My thoughts may keep you safely,
From winter’s cruel cold arms.

My laughter will give you summers,
My tear drops August rain,
And on your darkest night,
My smile will guide your way.

Forget me not this winter,
Nor make my life your plight,
No sympathy, don’t weep for me,
On this Longest Night.

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6 thoughts on “A Portrait of the Homeless

  1. Comment transferred from old site: I agree with the heart of your message. However, with so many heartless, uncaring and selfish people who would rather spit on a homeless person than help them, I will not be discouraging anyone from giving them food, money, or anything else. I don’t give homeless people money (95% of the time), but I will buy them food. No one deserves to be hungry. I have gone to my house and cooked food, and taken it to the homeless, and I have given them homemade care packages. And on long nights, dark, cold nights, like the ones in your poem, I have strongly contemplated putting a homeless person in a cheap motel for the night… because everyone deserves the dignity that comes with a shower, a fresh shave, and a warm bed with clean sheets.

    I do not begrudge those who help, in the ways that they see fit. I just don’t understand the inhumanity of those who think that helping, in some form, is beneath them.- APeezy

    • Thank you for your comment. I think you may have read to much into my post. I ONLY said people should not give money to panhandlers (who more often than not are NOT homeless or are only on the streets because of chemical dependencies …drugs/alcohol) because you enable them to stay in their condition. Panhandlers are too often the face of the homeless and they don’t not truly represent this very vulnerable populations. And unfortunately, as long as we allow them to be the face of the vulnerable (the guy reeking of alcohol begging for change for a new hit) people will continue to be turned off and not care and heartless to the plight of the homeless. I never mention food or assistance to the general homeless population. I love the homeless, but stand 200% behind my position. SoapBox Princess

  2. I agree that enabling hinders the upward mobility of some of the homeless and the community in which they “reside”. However, it is not for us to judge HOW one became homeless…particularly in today’s society when there are more empty homes than we care to admit. In not knowing and giving from the heart…even one time…is more of a spritual move than a mere financial one. One never knows which dollar will make a major difference in a needy person’s life and be the dollar to get them where they need to go to make a positive change in their lives. Yes, there are those who have no intentions of getting off the streets, but unfortunately, there are many who fell and are struggling to get up and out of their situation(s). Annoint that dollar with a blessing that the receiver may find a way out of that predicament and within safe limits, even offer a kind word. It may be THAT word that makes a difference!

    • I am not sure if you misread my post, didn’t read it at all or zeroed in on one sentence or word and took it out of context, but at NO point did I judge how a person became homeless or ask people not to give to or help the homeless. I said panhandler, who often times are NOT homeless or if they are, fall in the service resistant population of drug or alcoholics abuser or the mentally ill who take the “anointed dollar” you talk about and use them to stay in their position. I give to the homeless every day. I give my money and my time. I urged people to give to organization who help (if you actually read the blog before you commented). Understanding this population from actually working with them, and not from a standpoint of giving a dollar out the window and pretending I helped some person or did my Christianly duty of assisting a person in need, is why I don’t want the man begging for change to be the face of the homeless, because the greater problems are abused women, former foster youth, the elderly, people who lost their jobs, ex-cons, ect, who really need and want help, but aren’t the people we think about when we hear the word “homeless.” I am not sure why I am repeating this, since this is exactly what the blog says.

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