The poor are not going away.
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:11
NIV Commentary: "Many people conclude that people are poor through some fault of their own. This kind of reasoning makes it easy to close their hearts and hands to the needy. But we are not to invent reasons for ignoring the poor. We are to respond to their needs no matter whom or what was responsible for their condition."
The homeless have become invisible to us. We walk right by them without even seeing them, just like the people in the picture. That says an awful lot about us as human beings. We can only blame the government for so much, for a great deal of the responsibility rests with us. While there are many reasons given why people in America are going to bed hungry and sleeping on the streets, there is really no legitimate reason for people to be homeless and hungry in this country. Period. Why then are people so callous toward those in need? For many different reasons. There are those that have money and expect everyone else to get theirs, and they are completely devoid of compassion. There are those who believe the propaganda that all homeless people are worthless and lazy, therefore not deserving of our help. And, there are those who are so close to being homeless that they can't even bring themselves to look at a homeless person; afraid it might soon be them.
Up close and personal.
This is going to be a series of articles about the homeless population in the California high desert communities of Victorville, Hesperia, Apple Valley and Adelanto. They will not be stories that I have heard, or have read about in the local newspapers. I will be telling you straight from the trenches. I live in Hesperia, and have been helping to feed the homeless for the past eight months. I am not connected with a church, or any other organization. I do it on my own with the help of my daughter. We do not have a lot by any means; we are just willing to share what we do have. Losing my job over two years ago, not having found any success finding another, and with three children to feed and care for opened my eyes, and my heart, to a whole group of people that everyone was trying their best to ignore or hide.
When I lived 'down-the-hill' I had on different occasions given food and clothing to the homeless, but not on an on-going basis. I did not know that very soon I would come very close to being one of the homeless.
Everyone has a story.
While it is true that some of the homeless are there solely because of drugs and alcohol, there are many that found themselves on the streets because of job loss, company downsizing, illness, or some other trauma. The saying is that we all are just one paycheck away from being homeless, and in this economy and high unemployment, it's probably nearer the truth than ever before.
Kevin, the man in the picture was a welder, whose company put him on a 30-day lay-off. On the twenty-eighth day he was informed that he would not be returning to work at all. During the same time he lost his father. Between not being able to find another job right away and dealing with his father's death, Kevin's life took a downward turn. He was getting the run-around from his company and benefits were hard to come by. Alcohol finally took over, and the streets became his home. His is just one story we're going to hear in this series.
They are people just like you and me.
One thing I found interesting after I started being around the homeless in Hesperia and Victorville, was how kind and respectful these people were. They can be a bit cautious until they get to know you, but they were not hostile nor violent like you see on T.V. or in the movies. Maybe it's geographical. They also tend to be quite intelligent, and have a very good grip on the reality of how society, government, etc. really is. There is a kind of acceptance of their plight because they know, with few exceptions, no one is going to do much to help them.
What little they have can be carried in a back pack, plastic bag, or shopping cart. With few exceptions, they walk everywhere. The young man in the picture is one of the lucky ones. He has transportation; an old, no-frills bicycle. No hand brakes or 20-speeds here. If he wants to change his speed, he has to peddle faster. Yet he considers himself blessed to have it.
Do these people have problems? Absolutely. But don't we all? Maybe life hasn't dealt you a blow devastating enough to leave you without a roof over your head just yet. But the rules keep changing, and, in the blink of an eye, you could be the one needing someone's compassion.
Over the next few weeks we will look at what is being done and what is needed. The causes and the demographics, as well as the political, health and social implications of being one of the invisible people. And, how this is an issue of the heart, not one of government, benefits, or money.
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