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We can be defeatists or we can be champions

March 17th, 2014 | Posted by Carey Fuller in Homelessness

Nobody ever told me how long grieving takes but I never put a time table on it anyway. I just knew that after the shock of losing both my parents a few months ago, I would get back to what I was doing before; helping the homeless while trying to help myself get back on my feet. When it comes to hardship, there’s no such thing as a class or instruction manual you can turn to for advice. You pretty much have to learn as you go but at the same time, there’s a lot of stuff going on inside your head because you aren’t just physically trying to live, you’re trying to survive mentally as well.

Due to the realities of the economy we’re living in, making ends meet is a common endeavor and some folks have it harder than others which is why I don’t understand people who look down on people struggling to survive. Most of the people I talk to who have this attitude are misinformed about the homeless and some, in spite of facts, still chose to believe in myths about the destitute as if it is a justification for treating other people as less than human.

I don’t buy into the mentality of “that’s just the way it is”, seems to me it’s more like “that’s the way people let it be” and no matter how someone tries to argue their point of view, children are still going hungry in this country and families get ripped apart when they have nowhere else to go. I can’t even begin to tell you how many elderly and disabled I have found sleeping under bushes or behind park buildings or living out of their cars. I’ve lost count of homeless youth camps I’ve visited and unfortunately, I remember every homeless death I’ve seen.

While community leaders battle with city politics, the clock keeps ticking out on the streets. Doesn’t matter how many meetings you attend on homelessness when the homeless are still homeless and any efforts that do come about are often too little too late and nobody knows that better than a homeless person. Then there’s those who have never experienced real hardship that only know poverty from an academic view instead of practical experience with it and these are often the same people who come up with policies that don’t work on homelessness. Taking a food stamp challenge for a week or a month barely scratches the surface but living in a shelter or out in a tent city for six months will give anyone a healthy dose of day to day reality.

We can be defeatists or we can be champions, it all depends on an individual’s priorities in life. Not everyone can do big things but everyone can do something. I appreciate all of the folks who have supported what I do by donating shoes, coats, socks, blankets, hand warmers, scarves, hats, $5 fast food gift cards and sometimes cash donations via the PayPal donate button on this site because to the homeless folks who receive the items, these little things mean a lot. When cold weather hits, the main thing I buy is sleeping bags, hand warmers and feminine products for the women out here. Sometimes I just need gas to get people to a doctor’s appointment or get them bus tickets to get to work, every person I meet out here has different needs but the obvious need is housing! How come we can find money for war but not for the poor?

Helping the poor isn’t about a handout, it’s about empowering them out of poverty but how can anyone empower the poor when a certain group of people do everything they can to eliminate food stamps, housing programs and job training? Even after all of that, where are the living wage jobs to pay for the always increasing costs of living? You can’t argue for self-sufficiency in a system that promotes dependency and the biggest irony I’ve observed is the myth of self-sufficiency. Often, the very same people who run around touting this myth are oblivious to the fact that they rely on support systems others don’t have access to. I love the hypocrisy of people who complain to me that homeless people are homeless because they were irresponsible. That’s when I ask them who takes care of their kids while they hold down a job. What would you do if you were un-hirable because you don’t have an i.d. or have been unemployed for a while due to an illness or have to take care of a sick relative? If you get a job, is it more than minimum wage? Does it cost more to keep the job you’re applying for than it pays? How will you get to work if you can’t afford a car? What if you don’t have a cell phone? What if you don’t have relatives to help you when you fall?

 Assuming there are programs to help people who face homelessness is also a myth. There are year’s long waiting lists and there are requirements you may or may not meet. You can’t just show up at a shelter the same day you become homeless, you have to be “processed” and you only get in if there’s room. You are self-sufficient as long as you can AFFORD to be, there’s no such thing as isolated sufficiency because in one way or another, you are dependent on resources you have access to. Even if you were living out in the wilds, you need access to materials to build a shelter, you need access to clean water and you need access to food and if none of these things are in abundant supply, how “self” sufficient are you? In one way or another, people rely on resources in order to survive and survival depends on how resourceful you are within the environment you are in so the argument that the poor are poor because they don’t know how to be “self-sufficient” completely ignores institutionalized inequality, lack of access to basic necessities, poor education and the absence of people to people support. I know of no society that can exist with mass poverty and remain, sooner or later it implodes.

Having said that, I still apply for jobs I suspect I won’t hear back from and I still try different ways to earn money without having to pay for childcare but I’m a realist. I know things don’t stay the same forever but it certainly is taking longer to get back on my feet than it used to. I already know that it will take me longer to build my own support system because even when other people are around you, you’re still pretty much on your own. Everybody is on their own schedules with their own ambitions to follow. I get that. I also know that there’s a helluva lot of people out there who have it worse than I do but I can only do so much in a day and whatever gets missed today gets tacked on to tomorrow’s to-do list. It’s just too bad that so many are being shoved onto a to-do list that never gets done.

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