treat the symptom

Treat the Symptom, Ignore the Problem

I’ve noticed, it would be almost impossible to ignore, that most efforts to combat homelessness don’t really address helping the homeless. It is as if the homeless and not homelessness is the real problem. They don’t mind the homeless, they would just like them to be less conspicuous about it. Maybe, they could be homeless someplace else, someplace not so obvious. Then the problem would be solved. Little real effort is made to fight the causes of homelessness.

Nobody chooses to be homeless, sleeping under awnings hoping the rain doesn’t soak everything you own, pressed against the side of a building trying to find a little warmth or relief from the sweltering heat and humidity. Making sure you are up and have everything you owned stuffed into garbage bags and hidden from view before people arrive and force you to leave. Nobody chooses that.

According to Reuters a U.N. Human Rights Investigator “Poverty in the United States is extensive and is deepening under the Trump administration whose policies seem aimed at removing the safety net from millions of poor, while rewarding the rich.” Welfare benefits and health insurance are being slashed, and more people are forced to choose between food and medicine and paying their rent.

Almost 41 million Americans live in poverty, 18.5 million live in extreme poverty. Americans “live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies.” Of course, these are not new, nor are they exclusively the result of Trump’s policies, but his insistence on pulling the safety net out from under those who are most at risk has increased the number of people who can no longer afford a place to live. Since Johnson’s war on poverty American policy has been “neglectful, at best.” And, the Trump administration has promised to dismantle almost every benefit or promise of security. And with the republican majority there’s no reason to doubt his intentions.

On a more personal note, I have seen these people. I walk the streets of downtown, and I hand them a dollar, or a granola bar, sometimes a cup of coffee. I have looked into their eyes, and seen the absolute hopelessness that is consuming them. It drags them down, compresses them, making them fit into a small, easily ignored, stooped little package, sitting against the side of a huge building.

They are dwarfed by the size of the surroundings, the flow of traffic, the immensity of their problem. They have been reduced to insignificance, and trivia. But, if you take a minute, and look they are people, people who at one time had dreams and hopes, a life.

What they have become lessens all of us. What has happened to them affects everybody. What drove them to this silent, desperate, hell belongs to our whole country. We, as a nation, need to do better. We need to vote in November with the goal of returning compassion to power. It is our duty, it may be our most important responsibility.