Tuesday, September 18, 2012
I was inspired to write this article because of a fast growing situation that needs our attention...the dramatic increase in the number of homeless people over the past several years.
I know understanding why people are homeless is a complicated situation. We all have our opinions. I once felt indifferent until I was forced to change my point of view based on an experience I had when I was 19 years old.
Back in Trinidad I had a friend named Phillip. He was in his early 20's and was so funny. He had a heart of gold! Sadly his father hated him because he was gay. Beaten by his father and his neighbors for his sexual orientation, Phillip would come to work bruised and bleeding. One day he came to me and said, "I am HIV positive and I have to live on the streets." He ended up losing his job, as he could not keep it together emotionally.
I would often see Phillip as he slowly got sicker and sicker. Then one day I could not find him. I searched the hospitals but it was obvious, he died on the streets.
This happens all over the world and is still happening today.
These are a few questions I know we ask ourselves. Why are people homeless? Can they help themselves? Are they lazy? I'm no expert of the subject, but am eager to share my personal experiences and viewpoints on this.
First I want you to not think about the upsetting visual that some see when they encounter a homeless person. Forget the offensive smell and forget the fear of not knowing how to help.
I want you to think about the following...
Does this person have a name? Do they have children, brothers or sisters? Is someone looking for them? How did they grow up? Were they raped or abused as a child? Maybe they have a mental disorder...are on meds or can't get meds? Lastly I want you to think if they suffer from an addiction to drugs, alcohol or pills?
After asking yourself these questions, think back to a time where you experienced something very difficult emotionally. A loss, a battle with addiction or depression. How lucky were you to have a loved one nearby to support you. Or how lucky were you to be loved as a child. Did these factors help you?
Based on my experiences of the homeless people I knew, all of the above applied to why they were (and still are in some cases) on the streets. I have met people whom I have seen on the streets in NYC for the past four years that have had their hearts broken and could not recover. Some have lost all hope in life.
I encourage you to find it in your heart not to judge them but to ask yourself should people be hungry? I have to say that there is a shocking ban on feeding the homeless in NYC and most states. But if you were hungry, wouldn't you want someone to offer you hope through a meal?
Well Mother Theresa said it best, "If you can't feed 100 people just feed one..."
This is the first of a two part installment so I hope you share this and stay tuned for more.