I am just an average American. I live in California and these are just my thoughts on a very sad, somber subject of which, I have witnessed first hand; the homeless population in our country.
When I decided that I would write a blog on this particular subject, I did some research on the global homeless population, just to put it into perspective for myself. The numbers and statistics were heart wrenching.
Here is the link to the website that I looked at just so you can get a grasp of the problem we all seem to sweep under the rug, or just ignore altogether. This is because it’s just too much to grasp. That at this date in time we have such a huge problem. I encourage you to really look at these numbers and think about it, these numbers are PER NIGHT. The United States has 554,000 women, men, and children homeless per night. We have a 17% homeless rate in the United States. The Ivory coast has 68%, Guinea 68.5% Haiti 23.24% Germany 1.04% The numbers are just insane. I can’t say it enough… these statistics are ‘per night’.
Growing up in Oklahoma, I consider my upbringing to be fairly average. We had everything that we needed, but rarely got what we wanted. My dad worked construction everyday and brought in just enough to get by. I am the oldest of 4 children and we were what some might consider poor however, growing up, we did not know that. We were happy and my parents always kept a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. I am 38 now, have two children of my own and thank God I was able to always keep a roof over their heads.
Five years ago I moved to California and it broadened my way of thinking... to say the least. A lot of Americans grow up in a town and don’t go too far from where they are raised and some never do. Luckily life threw me a curve ball and I found myself in California. I’m not at all saying California is a bad place, but it’s just different here. The population density is much greater here. Although we are not the biggest state, our population is far more dense than say, Texas. Each day, I can see a desperation in people’s eyes.and I just didn’t see that back in Oklahoma. The nearest metropolitan city to us is Stockton, Ca .When I would go into Stockton, it just breaks my heart because no matter where I would go, the homeless seemed to be everywhere. You cannot traverse that city without witnessing the very apparent.
I would like to think that 20 years from now, we won’t see much of a homeless population growth, but sadly, this is not going to be the case. If the rate of the homeless continues to grow like it is, soon the entire United States will look much like Stockton, CA. It feels as if everyone is just ignoring the situation... thinking, “...it’s not my problem..”. The problem with that is that there is no one actually doing anything about this epidemic. Everyone just looks the other way. A great number of the homeless are suffering from some sort of mental illness. You pass by them and it seems that they are having a conversation with someone that is not there. Sometimes even screaming at someone that is not actually there. Let’s face it. There are a lot of drugs out there but nothing makes you behave in this way.That’s what most of us think when we see this. We say to ourselves, “oh , that homeless person must be on drugs.” However, this is not always the case. A great number of the homeless population have just fallen through the cracks. they need medication but are not receiving it. Instead they get arrested for acting out of their minds. They go to jail and then get released back onto the streets, never receiving the proper medical attention that they so desperately require.
Those who operate the jails know that the mentally ill don’t belong in jail, but unfortunately, they do nothing about it. Even if they receive some sort of mental evaluation, they might receive medication but the question still stands; What are we to do with them? The displaced individual does not have the mental capability, nor the ability to make sound decisions for themselves. It goes without saying… that they won’t be back for their medication. Most of the mental ill don’t have basic spatial reasoning abilities. They don’t know where they are or how they got there. Soon, they will be arrested and the whole process repeats itself. It happens over and over until they either remain in incarcerated or waste away on the streets. For many, death is a welcomed facet of being on the streets. Sadly, most of these displaced, mentally ill individuals have no family or friends. Nobody even knows who they are.
Just for a moment… can you imagine what it would be like if you did not have any family? No friends. No loved ones...Nobody. Say that everyone that was in your life has passed away. Perhaps you’ve had mental issues your entire life and you never made any friends. What happens then? Where do you go? What do you do? Imagine you have lived with your parents your whole life and they were the ones that looked after you. Provided for you. They made sure that you took your medication and made it to your doctor appointments. They cared for you completely and entirely. Then one day, suddenly….they unexpectedly pass away. What becomes of you? How do you survive? You still live at their home but you no longer are able to make your doctor appointments. You stop taking your medication and soon your behavior becomes erratic and dangerous. Someone calls the cops out of fear for your safety and now adult protective services step in, take your house from you and commit you.The state can’t possible take care of you forever. One day they decide your not harmful to yourself or anyone else so the state releases you back onto the streets or into a home for the disabled, then you miss that dr. appointment. You don’t get your medication and now you begin acting crazy again. This happens over and over because the state lacks the funding for a lasting solution.
Ok let’s talk about the other homeless people, the ones that fell on hard time and wind up on the streets. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get off the streets once you are there? People say there are places that help people. Try calling one of them. Most of the organizations are so depleted that they are reserved for women with children or elderly. Just imagine for a moment what your daily goals would be if you were on the streets.
Ok a job first of all. Ok you have nothing because you can’t possibly walk around carrying all your clothes, makeup, and other belonging. One you will get robbed. Two it’s too much to carry around. You would be exhausted just from trying to carry it. So you maybe have two pairs of clothes you can fit in a backpack. Ok so you apply for jobs the first day ok.
Two now you are hungry. You go to the food pantries and they give you food but you have no way to keep anything cold and you can’t possibly carry it all around. If you find somewhere to camp out you risk being arrested for trespassing or other homeless stealing anything you leave behind.
Three you need a shower. How do you stay clean? In California it is very hard to find a place that has a public restroom because of the homeless trashing it trying to take baths in the sink or just to find shelter for a moment. Seriously try to find a public restroom in Stockton, San Francisco, Los Angeles. Trust me it will be very difficult. In San Francisco the port o potty cost money when you use them. You must slide a credit card before the door will open.
So what do you do? How do you survive? How will you ever get back on your feet? In the town I live in they have pretty much made it illegal to be homeless. There is no homeless shelter in this town . So you have to go to a homeless shelter in Stockton and of course they have no room unless you are a women with children or are elderly. If you were to go to AT&T, or Panda Express, or Target, or any of the shopping centers around and you would find the homeless sleeping on the sidewalks or on the lawns. At first you think what are they doing? I can’t believe they are just right out in view!
Now think about what goes on after dark in big cities. I know when I visit San Francisco the nightlife is much different than what you see during the day. You just don’t go out after dark. Everyone in San Francisco knows that. The majority of the street crimes happen after dark. For example I went to get a pack of cigarettes one time while visiting and a group of prostitutes stopped me and said, “ Excuse me miss but if you go any further with that purse on your shoulder you won’t have a purse at all.” and they began laughing at me. Thank God they stopped me.
I quickly went back and got my boyfriend and we proceeded to stop at burger king where there was a homeless person on top of the counter and noone was doing anything you could tell the people that worked there were nervous. I asked my boyfriend, “ Why doesn’t someone call the cops.” He said , “They won’t show up . They don’t come to this part of town at this time of night.” We quickly got our food and left to returned to our hotel. Needless to say I didn’t try that again.
At night it’s a very dark and frightening place. So what do you do if your homeless and it becomes dark? You stay awake at night watching your back and you keep moving. During the day you sleep and you do it out in plain view so you don’t get raped, beaten, or robbed. For the homeless there is no other choice. You try going off in the shadows and taking a nap at night. It’s just not going to happen. You probably would not during the day even.
Now to the other population of homeless. The elderly. I think it’s so sad when I see an elderly individual on the streets and it’s so easy for this to happen to them. SSI is just not enough to live on. One little thing that cost extra during the month can sometimes mean they don’t have their rent money. Can u imagine you work your whole life and you barely have enough to eat. Sometimes going without important medications or skipping dr. appointments or meals. What if this were your grandparent living like this? It’s not ok.
I don’t have a solution at all, it’s overwhelming to even think about but my God there has to be a better way. This is just crazy and everyone is just passing the buck.
So we are not dealing with the homeless, the mentally ill, or the elderly. It will be like this all across the United States before you know it. Is this really what we as Americans are going to let happen. Of course we are. We are to worried about what someone else has or what they think of us to worry about real stuff. Everything is really going to shit now. Just like my Papa had said to me a few years ago, he has passed away now, he would just shake his head and then look down at the ground in disappointment and shock of the things going on in our world today and I find myself doing the same thing now just looking at the ground in shock that we have let it come to this. The way we treat each other is not ok we should know better.
It doesn’t get better from here. It never does. All I can do is show compassion to others when I can and try not to think what happens to that person after I leave and hope maybe by writing this it has changed a few peoples opinion about the homeless and hope that you do unto others as you would have them do unto you. As the Bible says. Teach are children these valuable lessons.
Next time you see someone begging for change, give it to them. If you have it. Who cares what they are going to do with it? You have no idea what it’s like to stand in there hopeless shoes. Give as much as you can when you can. Be an example for your children. Show them that compassion for others is something you can not lose as you age. Always have compassion don’t let life harden you to everyone and everything.
Ask yourself more often, “What would Jesus do?” and remember what’s important in the end. Not money, or stuff… it’s people.