homeless-40subway-10-5-162(MSCC) John Mudd, November 14, 2016 — The homeless are difficult for us to take notice of at times and they can easily be disregarded as we rush through our daily lives. Sometimes we pay them no more than a glance, or even a grimace. What can we actually do for an alcoholic, drug addicted, or mentally handicapped person on the streets? I don’t know about you, but blaming them will save me from any further thoughts. I’ll throw them some change, a dollar or two, to salvage my remaining conscience.

Sometimes it’s hard not to believe that it’s their choice to remain on the streets with all the social services available. There are shelters, as well as city and non-profit homeless agencies to assist them, including: The Department of Homeless Services (DHS), Coalition for the Homeless, The Bowery Mission. There are also many Therapeutic Communities (TC’s): Samaritan Daytop Village, Dayton New Jersey, HealthGrove, Dayton Village Inc Staten Island, and Stay’n Out.

Wouldn’t we all welcome the services if we were living on the streets of Manhattan, sleeping in a broken chair that was left out for garbage, resting our feet on a milk crate to keep the rats and bugs from using them as a ladder to reach our essentials? Well, the local homeless on 38th Street refused several offers to come in off the streets.

Their reasoning must be fully realized and not written off so easily. My conversations with the homeless encampment (see Interviewing the Homeless) left me with a few questions, “What are we really offering them?” and, “Are their other opportunities we’re not fully realizing or we’re not offering?” and, “How complicated is it to transition from street to housing, or temporary to permanent housing?”

Clearly the existing structures are not meeting their needs, therefore, it is not meeting our objectives; this compels me to examine the social service network thoroughly, as well as the rules and regulations that accompany them, and the legislation that impacts all members of our society. Perhaps this has been done many times over and the answers sit in a folder, a book, a report, a study… Or perhaps a piece of the puzzle is within each of us, and the resolution lies in gathering together to strike down the wall of indifference and build the bridge toward humanity.

If these people are on the streets, they are most likely broken, disheartened, disengaged, perhaps even suicidal. The climb out of the hole of despair is a slippery one. People on the streets need nurturing and reliable support. They need physical, mental, and financial guidance. They need a purpose!

Every person has a story. Are we listening to their stories and helping them on the road to recovery? I saw a man rolling back and forth in a wheelchair on 40th Street. He was neither drunk nor helpless. He wheeled himself quite efficiently with one leg. How did he lose the other leg? And, was losing his leg the cause of his disheveled appearance? Would a new prosthetic limb give him the encouragement he needs and spark his vigor?

We could continue to work within the system and do the best we can for the few that it does benefit, or we could dig deeper into the failures of the system and try and understand why people on the street refuse to participate. Although, digging deeper could be walking a thin line between our institutional and societal ills—a study that could make the resolution to homelessness less daunting.
Tasking ourselves with such a challenging and age-old goal of vanquishing the issues of homelessness requires all our efforts. To say it can’t be done speaks little to our capacity as human beings and diminishes our compassionate will.
“The meaning of life is to give life meaning.” ― Viktor E. Frankl