OPINION: The homeless deserve respect, not apathy

Abbey Marshall | Managing Editor

Abbey columnist pic (1)

We see them downtown, grasping onto tattered cardboard signs, begging for any loose change jangling in your pocket. We seem them curled up in a moth-devoured wool blanket, trying to stay warm on a bitter winter evening. We see them meekly shoving a shopping cart piled up with our garbage in an attempt to salvage anything useful.

They’re always there, so why do we pretend like they don’t exist?

According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness, 578,424 people were without a home on any given night in the United States in 2014. The sad stigma attached to those 578,424 people is that they’re drug addicts, and it’s their own fault that they’re in that situation. This deceptive stereotype hinders society from assisting those in need.

A couple years ago, my family went on a mission trip to Nashville. At a soup kitchen I was serving in, I met a man named John, a black man who served in the Vietnam War. His noble service to our country was hardly appreciated, however, as he returned to a country filled with racial inequality and outrage surrounding the soldiers who served in the war. Post-traumatic stress overcame him, causing him to spiral into poverty and eventually homelessness, as the government and the average citizen sat idly by. It deeply saddens me that nine percent of the United States homeless population are veterans.

Furthermore,  216,197 of the national total are families. So many children are heartbreakingly growing up on the streets, not knowing where their next meal is coming from, most likely deprived of a proper education. It is apparent that kids are not the cause of their own homelessness; they are apart of a vicious cycle that is hard to break. Growing up in poverty results in less opportunities, due to increasingly expensive college tuition. Oftentimes, they will have their own kids who experience the same thing, over and over and over.

Yet we will continue to walk down the streets, quickly stealing a glance out of the corner of our eyes before racing off. We are afraid to give them money, terrified that they’ll use it for drugs and contribute to increasing city crime rates.

My proposal is a modest one, and though it will not enact a monumental change the way a much-needed government reform could, it will definitely make an impact. Sit down on the park bench beside them with a frosty Coca-Cola or even an icy bottle of water and start a genuine conversation. Give them the respect that every person deserves. Not only are you treating them to something they most likely don’t have the money to splurge on, but you are making a tremendous impact by giving them the time that no one else will. It makes them feel appreciated and loved.

I’ve seen it in their eyes.



3 thoughts on “OPINION: The homeless deserve respect, not apathy

  1. Thank you for shedding light on difficult subject. It is so easy to “throw” money on a problem or rationaliize why we have no responsibility to respond. But getting to know a person and their situation helps us have a better idea not only on how to respond to that person but ways to work to eradicate homelessness one person at a time. The book, “An Invisible Thread” by Laura Schroff is a true story of a young woman executive who befriended a young panhandler boy on the streets of New York City, Both of their lives were changed for the better. I appreciated reading your article. Grandma Jeanne

  2. Just looking into their eyes and seeing them. The simple acknowledgment of their presence. A short connection with no judgment. So true, it does a lot. Thanks for reminding us!

  3. Abbey, great idea about sitting down with a homeless person. What if we dream bigger and sit down with not only the homeless but also the mentally disturbed, or the DD person? Our world would certainly be a better place if we treated all people with respect and took the time to communicate in a real way with each other.

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