The community where I live is in conflict over a day center for the homeless located in the business district. Some of the business owners object to its location, asserting that it has a negative impact on the neighborhood and on their respective businesses.
I try to put myself in the shoes of those whose livelihood depends on their commercial enterprises. I think I know how I would react if my business were in that neighborhood, but I’m not there, so I can only imagine. It’s easy to be a Good Samaritan in thought.
Addressing the needs of the “weakest” and “most vulnerable” is not a new challenge. Quotes abound with variations on the same theme. Ghandi is quoted with this:
“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”
But eloquent quotes are not solutions.
When I read about the personal missions of individuals to help the homeless in other areas of the country, such as a man who builds small “houses” on wheels, and the tiny-house developments springing up around the nation, and the movement to provide apartments for the homeless while they are trying to change their lives, I am hopeful that we are on a track toward workable solutions.
The more difficult challenge might be in changing the public perception of the homeless, sometimes portrayed in large brushstrokes as takers looking for handouts, not wanting to make the effort or do the work to become self-supporting or to improve their circumstances.
Who are the homeless? What are their stories? I think it’s time we seek to learn and understand.