This morning I got around to reading the July 5 - 19 "Rolling Stone". In addition to an article on 'Rachel Maddow's Quiet War on Television News" that I intend to read, it had an article entitled 'The Fallen' which cronicles the story of three separate homeless families in Santa Barbara, CA.
They all started out with jobs, middle class or middle class aspirational jobs, and had homes, businesses, cars. Now they have cars, cars that they live in in church parking lots. They are the reminders to us all that we are all one medical emergency, two bad decisions, and a few paychecks away from homelessness. None of us are immune; some of us just have further to fall.
The striking thing about their story is how it impacts your very core of who you are. Homelessness changes how people look at you, and think of you, and treat you in ways that have nothing to do with being homeless. Although many people are homeless due to addictions, chemical and alcohol abuse, and mental illness not everyone is homeless due to those reasons. Some are homeless due to plain old bad luck - the bad luck of a bad economy, or an illness, or losing a job. These people were our neighbors, the other customers in the grocery store, the lady that sold us our summer plants.
Being homeless becomes a full-time job. Just trying to make it through the day or the next meal or the night takes all the mental and physical energy you can muster. And how do you find a job with no phone and no fixed address? How do you interview for a job when you can't shower or press your clothes? Where is the safety net for people who are struggling with such dignity?
Many years ago I volunteered to serve breakfast at a local church that provided hot breakfasts and bag lunches to the homeless. My daughter was about 10 years old and I took her with me. She could be useful setting and clearing tables while we cooked and served. She was standing in the big parish hall while everyone ate and many of the homeless men approached her. The were not trying to frighten her or molest her. They wanted to make certain that she had gotten enough to eat and to give her the cookies that they had received in their bag lunches. They thought she was a homeless child. She had to explain that she'd had breakfast and had cookies at home, but thank you. They were willing to share the little that they had. What are so many American's unwilling to share when they have so much?