Poverty in the USA is growing quickly and we are fast becoming a Third World Country, though few want to acknowledge it. Yes, we have many more safety net programs than most countries. This is a true fact. But the number of homeless is growing more rapidly than are the solutions to help people feel like productive human beings.
Recently, I read that France has made it illegal for their grocery stores or supermarkets to throw out food. Instead they must donate it to a shelter, charity or place that needs food for the hungry. (https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2017/03/24/France-s-food-waste-ban-One-year-o)(https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/04/french-law-forbids-food-waste-by-supermarkets) Of course, with this new law, there are the pros and cons. But overall, the principle of the idea is sensible and it should be kept and utilized in all countries! Waste is a terrible thing, especially when we know children in Yemen are starving to death, when someone in Togo jumps into a well because they have no money to feed their family, when people are emaciated and starving! How can we dump the food into a garbage container. I vividly recall the scene from the film, “Dr. Zhivago,” which portrays the upper class dining, drinking and having a ball, while the people below are marching on the streets asking for bread.
Why are so many people on the streets? Why are there families living in cars?
The answer to this dilemma is more than the simplified answer: “They are too lazy to work.”
Yes, there are people on opioids, there are people smoking pot–yes, these are real people who end up living on the streets. But NOT everyone is a drug addict or a pot smoker. There are people who are mentally ill. People who have social anxiety, people who talk to themselves, people who are lost, people who do not seem to belong to anyone, people without family. There are people who for one reason or another, lost their job, and he/she or both parents and their children live in cars or under bridges and are without nothing. There are people living in the sewers of Las Vegas!
What has our world become? A world of have and have-nots. And NOT every fault lies at the feet of those who are without.
No one is going to tell me that a person would rather sit on the cold cement, as I saw on the streets of Bellingham, Washington, because they like the rain pouring on them and the cold wind biting at their bodies!
I have visited Bellingham on four different occasions because my youngest daughter now lives there. While there, I spend my day time walking on the streets, because my daughter is working and I need to do something with my time. I walk and I observe. Occasionally, I engage in conversation with those who are homeless. Yes, they think I am one of them because I am walking everyday. I write as though they are someone from some distant planet! My God–they are people with red blood running through their arteries–just like you and me! I suppose they are observing me too.
One particular day, four women were huddled together drinking coffee and one shouted to me, “Hey, I like your jacket.” I took this as an opportunity to interact with them. There I stood with them and spoke with them for over an hour. I learned a lot. Each woman had a poignant story to tell. Elizabeth lost her trailer because she had been with an abusive man and the police came and confiscated the trailer (yes, I am sure I only got some of the story). Another said she had no family. The third woman said she had been in a hospital but they discharged her and she had nowhere to go. Still another woman said she had been living with her daughter and her two children in a low-income housing project, but she had to leave because she was not allowed to remain with her as the housing stipulation said only her daughter and children could live there. Never mind, that the woman experiences social anxiety, is over 60, and had only a shopping cart filled with her belongings and a cat on a leash. She expressed that she feared going to a shelter because of the men who also stay there. There are no separate facilities, I presume.
There are as many reasons as there are homeless people on the streets.
I saw one person’s attempt to help. One day I was walking along Whatcom Creek and along this creek is a walkway with posts and a guard rail overlooking the waterway. I noticed that several posts had bags on them and one post had a jacket. I have attached the photos below, but I will write what was on each bag in each photo.
Photo #1: “With Metta…for you or a friend, may you be safe. May you be well. May you be warm. May you be happy. 3x”
Photo #2: This (a jacket) was my brother’s. He traveled the world with this, was smart and talented. I miss him. Let it serve you well!” Peace Sign
Photo #3: “With Metta. May you be safe. May you be well. May you be warm. May you be happy. 3x”
I have also seen people come down Holly Street and stop their van and hand out sandwiches to those on the streets. Others have given out water and juice bottles. Each day I see the generosity of the people of Bellingham.
And, I also see the dark side. Entrance ways that would provide shelter for the homeless overnight are sealed with an iron gate and lock.
There are many challenges facing us as a society. We have much work to do!
What can we do? Unlock our hearts!