Its sad to see how widespread is the sort of bias which I described a couple weeks ago. Despite the mandate to lift the wretched from their terrible circumstances, so we would rather push them aside. Just yesterday, KCPW reported that many citizens in West Valley were displeased that the county was breaking ground on a housing project for homeless seniors.
Ironically, the Housing First initiative has proven a remarkably effective method by which to help people move past homelessness. Having a home provides an anchor in the lives of the otherwise homeless, a sense of stability. With a more stable emotional state, these people are better able to respond to treatment and deal with the issues that have hindered them (whether that be substance abuse, emotional trauma, or mental illness), and get on the path to becoming contributing members of society (hear more about Housing First from KCPW and this NPR special investigative series). If these citizens of West Valley were to embrace this opportunity to serve the less fortunate among us, they would actually be minimizing any risk which the homeless people might pose. I’m glad that ground was broken, and that the project is going forth.
I know of one employee of the Salt Lake Public Library who was homeless several years ago. He was a regular at the library as he tried to stay warm or find shelter. But instead of being turned out as some reprobate, he was embraced by the library staff. When a custodial position came open, he was offered employment and a library staff mentor. With the encouragement and support of the staff, he developed into an excellent employee, has become full-time, has long term housing, and has become a “normal” member of society.
The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is one in which we consider the many blessings we enjoy, including the relative material abundance we enjoy. Many in society also spend a little time thinking about those who enjoy less, and help participate in food drives and other worthy causes to help those who want. I wonder if we can do more; if we can think about, participate in, and support long term solutions to the problems of poverty, hunger, and suffering. After all, “love thy neighbor” should be more than a couple cans of food on during a specific holiday season. It is about comforting and supporting our brothers and sisters, even the homeless ones, throughout the year.