Sunday, July 12, 2009

Do You Ever Think of the Homeless?

These are the people we see shuffling along the streets with backpacks, standing in doorways out of the rain, wind or snow. We see them under bridges, or standing with a sign on the bridge asking to work for food, or for donations. Who are these people?

Do you shun these people when they come near you to ask for help or to tell you their stories because they are dirty and ill-kept? In the winter time, they have layers of clothing and hover near any place that offers heat.

Do you think they are bums too lazy to work? Or do you think they are alcoholics or druggies trying to get money for their habit. Or do you think they make a living by being a panhandler? Well, in some cases you are right, but they all need help.

I’m passionate on this subject of the homeless. I feel so sad when I see these people on the streets with their backpacks. Many of them are old, or look old. Some are young, and I’ve often wondered why they can’t work.

Who are these homeless people out there? Except for the grace of God it could be you or me. Let me tell you what I know and what I’ve observed.

There are veterans who end up on the street. I read about an air force vet, a pipe fitter for twenty years until he lost his job a few months ago, and then his apartment. An army vet, a construction worker who got hurt and landed on the street while waiting 18 months for Social Security disability to be approved. There are numerous veterans who aren’t getting the help they need every day, and they are ending up on the streets.

The two vets I mentioned above plus others were in Arizona in a homeless shelter. One night someone’s shoes were stolen off their feet while sleeping. After that the vets decided to work together to do something about it, and the theft stopped. That shows you they weren’t worthless, but just men down on their luck.

I know another example of a homeless man, and I was very close to his sister. My friend has a brother who is mentally ill. His family tries to help him, but when he gets off his meds, he wonders off and they will not hear from him for a year or so. Every now and then, he’ll remember them and get in touch. They clean him up and find him a place to live, but he goes off his meds, he takes off. They worry about him out there heaven only knows where, but they can’t make him take his meds.

Even here in Kansas City, we have a multitude of homeless and poor. I help at our church, The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in the downtown area once a month helping to feed the homeless. There are also the poor who come to eat, too, that means they have a place to live, but not always enough money to buy food.

Once again, I ask you who are these people. Read on, and I’ll tell you. A few years, I visited with a lady named Cathy at one of our luncheons, and she told me she had once had a good job with a big company here in our city. I don’t remember the exact circumstances now, but she quit taking the medication she needed, and eventually lost her job and everything she had. She ended up living on the street. I was appalled by what happened to her, and I told several people in the church about her. Eventually, this lady was helped off the street.

This past winter, I started seeing a man whom I just knew that if he was homeless he shouldn’t be. He was dressed as if he was going on a job interview. The man sat alone, and although I tried to strike up a conversation with him going through the line for his food, he kept his head and wouldn’t look at me or answer. I realized it was shame preventing him from looking at anyone, and I wondered what caused his circumstances as I wonder about all of them. This summer, he’s not a loner. There are people he sits with and talks to now.

There have been times when I’ve seen whole families come in to eat at our church. Some are transient, some live out of vehicles, and some may have a home but not enough to eat. Many seniors even if they aren’t homeless, barely have enough to eat, and most of them have to decide if they want to eat or take the medicine they need to live. Some of them end up on the street because they can’t afford the taxes on their homes.

There’s another church close to mine who feeds the homeless Monday through Friday, and there are places like City Union Mission and numerous others where the homeless can get food and even a place to live temporarily. It’s not enough. All of these places are filled and overflowing, and they depend on donations from people like you and me, or businesses.

The Harvesters donate food from their pantry to our church, but this past winter they had none to share with us because there were so many people who needed help. Some of the other businesses around the city chipped in with pizza, chicken nuggets, salad fixings, soup, etc. Because of the economy and loss of jobs, there are more people than ever that need help from organizations like the Salvation Army and food pantries.

I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a fund raiser, but can you imagine how much help $1.00 from everyone who has it could make. People and the organizations who help them need our help.

Thanks for reading my blog. I could say more, but I’ll leave it for another day.


Until next week,

Sandy

19 comments:

Anastasia Rabiyah said...

Hi Sandy,

Great post about something that affects all of us. We do have homeless here in Tucson. When I worked at the credit union, I was the treasurer for their volunteer group. We had speakers come in often that explained to us that many of the transient homeless travel across the country via hitchhiking or trains, or just plain walking. They follow a certain path from state to state according to the weather patterns. Arizona is where they come during the winter. Because they live on the streets, you can imagine why they would end up here in the cold months. We have very little snow if at all.

This is a painful subject for me. I don't think people in this country realize how very little is out there to help the mentally ill or those people who are mentally handicapped. My brother is mentally ill and if he does not take his medication, he does things that make no sense. It's obvious his judgement is impaired when he decides to stop his meds.

I am grateful that he lives in Florida where he is close to my parents and there is a FACT team that comes to check on him regularly to be sure he is taking his medication. Many people like him don't have anyone. They outlive their families or have become estranged. Who watches out for these people? The sad truth in most cases is that no one does.

Anastasia Rabiyah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J Hali said...

Sandy,

It is a very sad situation, especially in our current economy. I wish the government would spend more money on the 'home' front. I spent 20 years working in a Mental Health center. Laws do not allow a person to be 'forced' to take meds if they chose not to once they left - unless they were a danger to themselves and/or others. That is not always the case, so it's difficult.

It's a hard thing to deal with and God Bless those who do.

lienaferror said...

Sandy,

A very thought provoking post. It is my opinion that most of the homeless are homeless by means outside of their control. Medications are expensive if you don't have insurance and I can understand why some people go off the meds that they are on.

Our country, unfortunately, isn't in very good shape to even help these people. It is a terribly sad and tragic situation.

Great post, Sandy.

Liena~

Sandy said...

Ana,

Thank you for posting your comment. You're right that there isn't a lot of help out there for the mentally ill.


Thank goodness, your brother is willing to take his meds and to stay in one place. My friend's brother will not do that, and now she is deceased. Her husband and his elderly mother try to do what they can.

Hugs.

Sandy said...

Joann,

Thank you for your comment.

You're to be commended for having spent so many years working in mental health.

It's a difficult job to handle for so long. A lot needs to be done.

Hugs.

Sandy said...

Liena,

Even when we were in shape to help these people we didn't. The sad fact is that many mentally challenged people were released from mental institutions years ago. Some ended up in and out of jail or prison numerous times.

Thanks for your comment, Liena.

Hugs.

Annette said...

I'm thankful I'm not in their shoes. I worked at a homeless shelter in the kitchen for a few years and some of the residents were, in fact totally fine and should have been working but just didn't want to. Others were mentally ill or had a terrible rash of bad luck or some were even regular folk taken advantage of by someone else. you never can tell when it will happen or who this situation could happen to.

Sandy said...

Thanks, Annette, for your comment.

Yes, you're right there are always some who take advantage to get something for free. I know there are some construction workers who work nearby who come by for a free meal. I still don't begrudge them.

However, one day I was thinking that this was the case with one of the guys because he was always smiling and so cheerful. When I left our church and was waiting at a light, I saw him crossing the street heading down to the bridge. He was no longer smiling, and he was slump-shouldered. He'd totally fooled me, so you can't judge a book by its cover.

Wilburta Arrowood said...

Sandy, there are so many who need help, and I fear there will be more as time goes by. Having worked in a benevolence program I know many who have real needs, and there are those who are out for whatever they can get, particularly from churches, but I would much rather be guilty of helping someone who did not need it than be guilty of not helping someone who does!

Sandy said...

Hi Willie,

I know you're right. It's a difficult situation. Everyone needs help in some way or another.

Thanks, Willie.

Hugs.

K.T. Bishop said...

It really saddens me to see homeless folks on the curb of stores I go into. The Pensacola News Journal did a beautiful piece weeks ago about homeless kids going to school and living in the shelter at night with their unemployed parents. My life is not all together, but at least I have a job and find someplace to live. These people have nothing. All these millionaires and political folks need to get off their asses and help them. If I had lots of money, I certainly would.

Historical Writer/Editor said...

This is a good post, Sandy, important information. I've been touched by this subject as well. -laura

Sandy said...

Thanks for your comment, K.T.

Yes, it's distressing to see homeless kids. We can only do so much, and that even includes the millionaires and political folks. Smile.

I try not to criticize the wealthy because none of us know what their expenses are, or how much they give. Many try to use their power to help.

No one can do it all.

Sandy said...

Thanks, Laura. I appreciate your comment.

Linda LaRoque said...

One day man in front of the library asked me for money for something to eat. All I had was a twenty and at the time couldn't afford to give that much.

I got in my car and then got worried. What if he was someone who'd take advantage of children as it was summer and kids were in and out. I went inside and mentioned the man to the library director. She said he'd been spending a lot of time in there that day and they'd take care of it.

As I look back, I feel a lot of shame. I prejudged the man, could have easily gone to get him a hamburger and drink, or notified our pastor. Our church often provided gas, lodging, and other needs of individuals.

If God was testing me that day, I failed miserably. Hopefully I'll do better next time.

Linda
www.lindalaroque.com
http://lindalaroqueauthor.blogspot.com

Sandy said...

Oh, Linda, don't be too hard on yourself.

There is evil out there.

When I was fifteen, my family and I were at Nelson's Art Gallery in Kansas City. For some reason, I didn't feel good, and I told my family I was going to the car. I went out the nearest entrance to our parked car, and there was a man on the step. I didn't realize it then, but he was playing with himself and he touched me. I ran away from him, and if I hadn't been so sick I would have gone back inside and told my family. I did tell them when they returned.

That was a much simpler time, too, Linda.

Thanks for your comment.

Charles Stafford said...

Hi, Sandy, I spent about three years,(once a week) speaking at the family City Union Mission. You hear a lot of sad stories there. Hundreds perhaps thousands of different reasons. It was a wonderful experience. Difficult to share how much God loves them, even though they was in a difficult time in their lifes. Enjoyed your blog

Sandy said...

Charles,

How nice to see you here. Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comment.

I'm sure you helped many people.