Homelessness and Poverty by Chance or by Choice


Homelessness and Poverty by Chance or by Choice
By Bernadette A. Moyer


Our news is flooded right now by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many people have literally lost everything in losing all their worldly possessions and many have lost their homes. Surely they didn’t choose to have a natural disaster take their home and virtually render them homeless.

But what about a culture of people that exists in just about every inner city and is homeless? We learn that so much of the inner city homelessness can be traced back to alcohol and drug addictions and abuses and some of it stems from some form or combined forms of mental illness.

We have people in our cities that are living on the streets and they have no money, no food, no clothing and no shelter. Is it by their own doing or undoing? Or is it an inability to properly function due to a disease that may very well be beyond their control?

The very first time I witnessed homelessness I was in the sixth grade, only eleven or twelve years old when we went to see a show in New York City. A man was lying on the sidewalk with just one shoe and he appeared to be sleeping with people just walked right over him as though he wasn’t there and didn’t exist. I was from a small town in Pennsylvania and grew up on a farm; my eyes were wide by what I witnessed. Not only was he sleeping on the busy sidewalk but no one stopped, no one cared and no one seemed willing to help him. It left a lasting impression.

Most of us can’t imagine not having a home and we can’t imagine living in poverty and on the street without our basic needs being met. We think that it is as simple as a choice. We have always given to Paul’s Place, The Franciscan Center and Our Daily Bread, all located in Baltimore City that support homeless people with food, clothing and other services. Just one of this Center’s is supporting 500 people a day for a free hot meal. For some people this will be the only meal for the day. I was stunned to learn just how many individuals, men, women and children who are dependent on others to meet their basic human needs and require basic human services.

There was a time when I believed that to be truly homeless, a person must have burnt every single relationship from family to friends and beyond. But the reality for many is that it is a culture and a learned behavior that often passes from generation to generation. Getting up and getting out of poverty takes incredible strength, determination and courage and a support system of caring individuals. It takes courage to face a new and foreign way of life, one where they are willing and able to accept responsibility for themselves. This can be scary for some who never witnessed this modeled behavior.

What about the people who are struggling with a disability, a health issue and may never be in a position to work and afford to care for them and contribute to their family. Then there are the “working poor” people that have jobs yet it still does not translate into self-sufficiency.

The people that lost their homes to hurricane Sandy and to other natural disasters never anticipated that they could wake up one day and literally find themselves homeless. What would we do if a natural disaster destroyed our home, where would we go and who would help us out?

I have always viewed our country, the United States of America as a wealthy and “fat” country with so much abundance and with a true sense of generosity. There is no reason why we should have any single person, our brothers and our sisters should all have their basic needs met.

Most of us can pray and we can donate our time and our treasure to help those in need. As we approach the holiday season with Thanksgiving and Christmas and in the season of giving and gifting, let us not forget that many are doing without and that “To whom much has been given, much is expected.” Luke 12:48

Written 11/2/12

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