I am proud to have you as a close friend, but I have to tell you, your
comment was rather callus. Homelessness is not, in most cases, a "choice"
nor is it simply "always" a lack of willingness to take a job. In most cases
it is brought on by mental illness, poverty and many other disorders that
cause people to drop out.
My granddaughter, Lauren, has lived with us for almost two years (she is
home now but will return this summer). She is in 6th grade and is beginning
to feel her independence. During Thanksgiving, her friend Michele - who is
the granddaughter and ward of friends of ours in Los Angeles - was planning
to spend the holiday and weekend with us. Our friends are caterers and had
to work during the holidays and found it too difficult to drive back to Palm
Springs to pick up Michele and decided instead to come out for a day and
then return. Lauren and Michele got upset and started in with the "it's not
fair" tantrum. My wife decided it was time to show Lauren just how "fair"
life really is.
Michelle did come to stay for the five days as our friends decided to come
back on Sunday to pick her up. However, on Thanksgiving morning Mari woke
both girls early and took them to the local shelter where they would spend
the day helping to feed the homeless.
Lauren spent the day feeding your "typical homeless" until she passed the
plate to a few families whose children were classmates of hers. She began to
understand that life isn't fair and that many of the people at the shelter
were down on their luck for various reasons; Husbands abandoning wives with
children; families coming from other areas with no money or place to live
other than their automobiles; the mentally ill who do not do well in society
and who belong in care facilities but who are too "functional" to be
admitted, and yes - the abusers of drugs and alcohol.
Bill, not everyone on the street is there for an indefinite period of time -
but for all that leave, more will arrive. However the ones that stay are
generally the ones with illnesses that prevent them from fitting into
society and being able to support themselves.
While this may get personal, someone very close to me has a condition known
as Asperger Syndrome which was only recognized by the medical community in
1994 as a highly function autisism. This person is in his 50's and as I
found out on the AS website, many of them who are now being diagnosed are
much older as well as children. One of the symptoms of the condition is the
inability to co-exist in a society which they view from the outside. While
the intelligence level is normal to extraordinarily high, they lack all
ability to relate to people and unless they have someone to care for them or
support them, may fall victims to the streets or worse. Social services
doesn't address them with a need to subsidize or help them because they are
either "functional" (meaning that they are not isolated or withdrawn from
the world) or highly intelligent. High intelligence without a mechanism that
allows you to fit in and exist within a society is just as likely to have a
person living on the street as it is to make them a useful member of society
with subsidies from the government when there is no family to help.
The people you see on the streets, with the exception of those who move in
an out of low income or desperately poor are "typically" ill with one or
more of several conditions, but "Choice" is not one of them.
I suggest you take a look at the following website and read a little bit
about this type of disorder, then consider reading of other disorders that
land people in the street - including schizophrenia (for which there are
many types), Attention Deficit Disorders, Retardation and much more that
society has quietly tried to sweep under the rug.
There are those, I would admit, who abuse life and will always be a burden
on the rest of us. However, I think it unfair to dismiss the "majority" of
homeless who have no "choice".
Sometimes it takes a little compassion to open our eyes to see that there is
a large gray area out there that people exist in which does not fit neatly
into what we perceive to be our society. We are human because we have the
ability and understanding for tolerance or compassion or our own species.
Without that then it is simply an order of animal instinct which kills off
the weak so the strong can survive.
Sorry, but I've learned my lessons years ago and sometimes I wonder how
people can believe that we are all controlled by "free choice". Fortunately,
for the moment, you and I are and we need to appreciate that privilege while
we have it and maybe step into someone else's shoes for a short time to
understand what makes them tick.
With my deepest respects, my good friend,
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Bill Polhemus [mailto:bill(--nospam--at)polhemus.cc]
> Sent: Wednesday, April 04, 2001 5:22 PM
> This is my own opinion, so feel free to flame away, but the
> typical homeless
> person is NOT, as is commonly depicted, someone "just like you and me" who
> is just "down on his luck." Homelessness represents the "hard-core poor,"
> people who won't be able to take care of themselves no matter HOW much you
> do for them. They will either have to be carried by the rest of
> us, or they
> will have to remain as they are by their own choice.
> William L. Polhemus, Jr., P.E.
> Polhemus Engineering Company
> Katy, Texas
> Phone 281-492-2251
> Fax 281-492-8203