Whenever the conversation turns to the issue of homelessness, there are always those who flippantly describe the scores of men, women and, yes, even children, who are homeless as individuals who “prefer” being without a place to live.
It’s a belief that’s unfounded and downright ridiculous. And we’re sick and tired of hearing it.
Certainly, there are those who suffer from mental illnesses and who are living on the streets of the District and other cities across the U.S. For them, it may be impossible to refute such ludicrous claims which conclude that they chose to be homeless. But for the thousands of others, the vast majority, being homeless has never been their desire nor a choice they made. In many cases, their current condition occurred due to circumstances well beyond their control.
Perhaps they are homeless because the breadwinner of the family has either departed, become incapacitated, been remanded to the prison industrial complex or has died.
Perhaps they have found it impossible to secure employment that provides enough income to pay for housing.
And let’s not forget that here in the District, despite the celebratory mood that the mayor maintains as new “affordable housing” is touted with ribbon-cutting events and photo-ops, there’s still not enough for those who need it most.
In a nation with so much wealth and so many wealthy citizens, we should all feel a sense of shame that there are so many people who are hopeless, helpless and homeless.
And if you believe that people “enjoy” being homeless, just try walking in their shoes for one day and night. Better yet, try it for a weekend. Brave the elements, face the dangers that comes with being confronted by strangers with bad intentions. Handle being thirsty and hungry without the ability to reach into your refrigerator for a quick repast. Try using the bathroom or washing up when you don’t have a bathroom, a shower or soap and clean water at your disposal.
The Bible, in a passage attributed to Jesus, advises, “when you cared for the least of these, you cared for me.”
The least of these have been asking for help for far too long. Let’s end homelessness once and for all. We can do it – if we really want to.