19 January 2007

Enabling the Homeless?

This is what I heard on the Nashville news yesterday. The Metro Council and the police department are issuing statements strongly discouraging individuals from giving money to the homeless. And not just money, but food, blankets and any other gifts that might alleviate their suffering for a moment, because it encourages them to beg instead of taking action to get themselves off the streets. 
     So are we enabling the homeless to continue being homeless? By buying a man a burger are we encouraging him not to seek help from the Rescue Mission or other official homeless shelters? Are we the root of the homeless problem? 


    That is the same logic that says: " If we provide translation services for immigrants they won't actually learn English. It doesn't have anything to do with the lack of affordable, convenient, well-staffed and well-equipped ESL classes. Or the fact that English is difficult to learn" or: "Wellfare just encourages people to stay poor. Poverty doesn't have anything to do with how hard it is to actually get good jobs, or affordable housing, health-care, child-care, education, electricity, car insurance, or decent public transportation."
    Perpetuating fear is not a solution. It is well known that some people do cheat the system, whether it is through voluntary homelessness, fraudelant welfare or any other.  What is NOT well known is the sheer volume of people who simply cannot get their feet under them.  Is it worth sacrificing our compassion to make sure that people who do not deserve it don't receive it? What message are we sending?
  Unfortunately, the metro council and the police department have sent the message loud and clear.  And it is not "help the homeless help themselves" as they would have us believe, but rather "do not encourage the homeless to be seen on the gracious streets of Nashville."  Because a problem is not our problem if we don't have to look at it.


Randy said...

access to affordable housing is a human right ... we discovered en masse in theb aftermath of katrina whatb it's like to have so many new homeless (i.e. internally displaced residents) and government not being able (or willing) to provide basic assistance ... nice catch on a local issue...

nograysunflowers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nograysunflowers said...

being treated like a human is a human right. I don't think it is good form to warn people that giving is a direct cause of a serious social problem. Maybe it is for some, but for most is a much bigger issue than "misplaced compassion."