Not all homeless are created equal
I read Brenda Scully's hub about homelessness. She tells us the anguish she had years ago seeing many young people begging in the streets, without shelter. And she brings us from those years a poem she wrote, a small fairy tale where she rescues a young man and brings him back to his home. Her tender heart, her sadness when confronted with misery, her creative imagination projecting a happy ending that probably influenced in mysterious ways the solutions for those problems, all of it is very inspiring and worth reading.
I'm quite happy with my city, New York. Of course it has homeless, quite a big number. As Brenda says, there are many reasons for a person being homeless, it's not always poverty that puts you in the streets. But here in the Big Apple, the homeless people are neither abandoned nor forced into charitable seclusion, they are free to come and go, and also helped when needed.
Actually we have in the Metro trains a big poster begging you, on behalf of the city, not to limit yourself to giving some change to a homeless person, but to phone the city and give its location, so help can be sent right away. Because if many are perfectly able to go to the many refectories and shelters around the city, others do not have the mental or physical means to do it.
I remember in Paris, among a bunch of "clochards" that were habitual customers at the doors of a certain church, a friend of mine discovered, talking to one of them, that this permanently semi-inebriated character was in fact an architect that had been specialized in interior design, and somehow had fallen out of the system. Now his life consisted in receiving alms from charitable people, and sharing bread, cheese and big bottles of ordinary wine with his clochard companions.
They were happy on Winter Sundays and the couple of nights in the middle of the week when there were theology classes, because they were allowed to stay inside the atrium of the church. All the rest of frigid days they had to satisfy themselves with the heat coming out of the Métro grids, in the streets, and the blankets made of old newspapers. I was indignant about them not even having some true blankets, until someone explained to me that the gross ordinary paper from newspapers and boxes was an excellent protection. As of today I don't know if this is true but at the time I felt relieved. I suppose that nowadays you don't find clochards in the streets of Paris, not at night, not after so many years of liberal governments.
Another friend told me the story of a local Manhattan homeless woman that used to sit at the corner of an avenue and one of those few crosstown streets that have automobile traffic in both directions. She was there just sitting all day long and would insult you if you tried to give her a few coins, so for the distracted mind it was a mystery how she survived. But of course, this was, again, New York, a city that is used to helping the homeless, so it was safe to assume that the woman went every night to a shelter and to some kitchen or refectory of her choice.
Then one day something happened at the corner where she used to sit. Maybe a car accident, or a fire in one of the buildings ... Fact is that ambulances, firefighters and police caught the attention of a TV crew passing by, a film was shot and the incident appeared in the news. And in the film, there she was, for the world to see, our homeless woman. A few hours later she herself became the news.
She was a member of a wealthy family that had been trying to find her for years, and had given up their search, until one of the relatives recognized her in the news. They came and picked her up and it was assumed that now she was going to have the comfortable, sheltered life that the heiress of a fortune could afford. Two weeks later she was back at her usual corner of the avenue with the crosstown street. It was not said what insults the family had endured for daring put a transitory end to her freedom.