Where the Heart Is
'In the course of looking deeply within ourselves, we may challenge notions that give comfort before the terrors of the world.'—Carl Sagan
In a perfect world, everyone is equal, everyone is worth the time to invest in and show kindness towards. However, in spite of this vision, the application of such a notion in daily life proves arduous—especially when it makes people uncomfortable. As the hourglass of our lives rapidly moves through the sieve of “now,” each moment beckons minor decisions, which are seemingly innocuous. Nevertheless, these decisions are the ones that produce the big picture of our lives. To be effectively kind, we must ritualistically participate in the art of introspection handling each moment with grace and foresight. Metaphorically, each grain of sand in the hourglass of our lives builds on the other. Every frown, smile, and nod is a choice we make, as it slips through the bottleneck of present to past collected together as our individual stories. By all means then, are we not the sum of our attributes in their most diminutive occurrences?
They say "Home is where the heart is," yet, when you search for "heart," the synonyms listed as a reference for the word are: compassion, sympathy, or humanity. Unfortunately, these words are scarcely applied to a certain group that we refer to as “homeless people.” Alternatively, the first descriptors most commonly used for those who fall under the "homeless" label are, instead, far more derogatory, such as: lazy, dirty, and dangerous. We often criminalize homeless people and, in that way, dehumanize them — which inhibits incentive to alter our standing preventive measures, which are considerably lacking once you realize the number of homeless people at any given point across the country. Shifting the blame to the homeless removes all personal responsibility and we as a society end up failing those in need. We must garner understanding in these circumstances, considering the multiple factors which contribute to becoming homeless such as: poverty, decline in public assistance, mental illness, and domestic violence. We are all deserving of the support of our community, regardless of social status.
I have firsthand experience with both living near an elevated number of the homeless population, as well as endured my own struggles with a place of residence and lived without an address for a period of time. For instance, every time I would leave my apartment, I would encounter a number of homeless people. Most would bravely greet me or another passerby on the street with a question that varied in style and method. Some would generically ask for change, others more pointed with requests for a specific amount, or the most desperate among them would simply plead for water or food. There were times when they would accompany their request with a narrative of how they would use the given charity, possibly in hopes to construct a better case for themselves. Anything to engage strangers who were trying to avoid eye contact, anything to incentivise their fellow human to come to their aid.
At times, this influx of homelessness and desperation developed into an overwhelming feeling of despair and anxiety. I could never help everyone who needed it, and I felt powerless to structure a consistent platform that would aid in the long-term answer to their immediate need. We are surrounded by these issues and most of us feel helpless as to know how to really impact our society in a positive way, so we often shrink away from the things that make us feel uncomfortable and allow for circumstances that create discomfort to be swept away from sight.
The issue with this protocol is that it negates the attempt for an equitable problem. If we choose to ignore our neighbors and countrymen, homelessness will never truly be solved. These problems are complex and impact our society as a whole. To enumerate, America proves faulty in the practice of Human Rights; such is shown in state by state legislation as it is continuously remissive in appropriating laws that envelop our nation’s ideals and conceived consequences for both the wealthy and poor. According to Pickett, K E, and R G Wilkinson in an article of Social Science and Medicine: “The evidence that large income differences have damaging health and social consequences is strong, and in most countries, inequality is increasing. Narrowing the gap will improve the health and wellbeing of populations.” The structural changes that are being proposed by homelessness organizations in order to abate these civic problems has the potential to create a better society for all. For example, investing more heavily in the development of affordable housing would be beneficial for low-income homes and single individuals who teeter on the poverty line in discomfort and uncertainty. Instead, they would be met where they are at, easing some of their financial strain, as well as creating more accessible opportunities for the chronic homeless who cannot afford housing.
In conclusion, we must remember that every moment is a choice, and each choice is a prospect for change. Our local communities and federal government remain complacent and apathetic, leaving so many citizens forgotten, which deprives our brothers and sisters from opportunity for success. Some would argue that homelessness is unfailingly a personal choice. However, this line of thought stems from misinformation and lack of comprehension of the issues which contributed to the homelessness crisis we know today. Even so, as members of our community let us rise together and support the principles we stand by in our country’s Declaration of Independence, and in doing so we protect and respect the foundation of our country’s culture through course of action. Let us support those who could be any one of us—shaping a stronger community and simultaneously putting a heart, in every sense of the word, where the home is.