Living Third World in a First World Country

Ending Homeless-ness. It sounds like a noble cause, but mostly is just frustrating.

The reason people are in the streets is because there is nowhere else for them to go. Even though the numbers of vacant houses in the US outnumber the Homeless Families; there is nowhere that these families can legally turn. There are not enough emergency shelters or even dedicated floor space under a ceiling to direct people to when they need to escape the elements.

How would you provide this child with access to a bath if she is homeless?

I often find myself in the ridiculous position of remembering that homelessness is a “First World Problem” – because back when this same bit of land would be a Third World country; Native Americans slept outside, under the stars, in caves and in tents. Surely a corner of someone’s garage or being crowded into a living room is better than that? I remind myself that Galileo did not have cable television or even electricity.  

And yet, while there is enough low hanging fruit and food stamps to keep bellies full: I am looking at a population who is living a Third World life in a First World country. I see little children who have to get homework done before their only light sets in the west while their classmates have canned light and the internet, a safe quiet bed to sleep in and access to refrigerated food and cupboards of nutrition at their fingertips.

 Last week a FaceBook friend commented that if the parents of these children could not find a way to afford better living for them, the parents should relinquish the children to adoption. What? Aside from the entirely different story of an overcrowded Foster Care System and millions of un-adopted children already waiting for homes – there is a selfishness issue there.

If a family is willing to take on a child and pay for them for eighteen years, could that same family take in the child’s family for a shorter period of time and foster them to self-sufficiency? Would they use the extra bedroom for a child and his parent(s). No, the child did not contribute to the parents un or underemployment and the child did not make the choices that led the family into homelessness, but what emotional cost are we willing to charge the child and entire family by splitting them apart?

There are no easy answers to Homelessness. Certainly the only solution is housing. Housing, however, costs money – and lots of it.

Ways to access money:

  1. Earn it through work
  2. Inherit it through death
  3. Steal it through crime.

Clearly, the socially acceptable means is employment; however there are few jobs available. I have clients and parents working at hamburger stands and chicken joints and cleaning houses and washing dishes and babysitting, and day laboring and all the jobs the media tells us we need illegal aliens to do. I am sending parents to college and trade schools so they might qualify for better jobs in a skilled sector. It seems, however , that there are not enough jobs that would pay enough for a family to rise out of homelessness and become self-sufficient.

These families are situated in urban settings and not on a commune where Third World work and life are possible. There are no field for subsistence farming, nowhere to herd cows in order to milk them for a glass of milk, and if someone were to kill the animals available in the city for food they will be prosecuted and placed in jail: ending their homelessness temporarily at least.

I don not have an answer to Homelessness. I am constantly frustrated to meet families eager and determined to save themselves when I have no way to house them and no direction to point them to that will guarantee shelter.

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One thought on “Living Third World in a First World Country

  1. I was homeless several times. I can relate to this topic. Bottom line is that being homeless sucks period. What I don’t get is the fact that the media portrays all homeless ppl as drug addicts and alcoholcs. This is just not true! Any low-income person can be at risk for homelessness. This country is always helping other countriesin turmoil, yet they close their eyes to what’s going on here and now. It turns my stomach to see ppl turn their noses up whenever they see a homeless person in public. My god, if I were wealthy, I’d make a huge donation to help the homeless. But I’m not, so I’ll just continue to pray and keep hope in my heart for the homeless.

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