Sunday, March 25, 2007

Humanize homelessness:

Talk of an ordinance to put an end to camping on public property is definitely meant for the homeless. And of course a way to solve a problem is to put them away. If homeless people had money to pay a fine for camping they would most likely have a home.

As for an end to panhandling, all these laws are directed at the economically challenged - poor people.

I would be the first to agree that there is a percentage of homeless people who just don't want to work. A small percentage. Most people are homeless under circumstances they have no control over. Loss of income or shelter at a crucial time can lead to years of homelessness. The government stopped the welfare system and a lot of people were left to their own devices. Then there are some people with mental health issues. Our medical and mental health system for the poor is a joke. Poor people die every day because they can't afford treatment. But as long as they stay out of sight that doesn't matter either.

So what do people do who are homeless? Where do they sleep? Where do they bathe? Where do they eat? People don't want panhandling. Would they rather someone just take their money? At least respect that they ask. No one has to give a panhandler money. It is your choice. I personally need the karma so I help everyone I possibly can. I'm sure a lot more of us could use the good karma.

And where do they sleep? We are so worried about appearance. Instead of worrying about the injustice of another human being, who has to sleep in an alley in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, the response is, "That looks terrible. They're so dirty." These are our sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, friends and fellow Americans.

Maybe if we all thought of homelessness as not an issue but a personal thing that is happening to many good people it would be different. It needs to be individualized. We need to hear personal stories. When we make this a person-by-person thing instead of talking about an overwhelming 6,000 homeless people, maybe then compassion for our fellow man will win out over aesthetics. Personally, I would rather know that my tax dollars were going to help house and feed people rather than putting up new plants in front of some condos. But I'm crazy like that.

by Denise Hawke letter to the Editor Bradenton Herald

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