Out of sight, out of mind. That’s how most Americans deal with homelessness. So it’s not surprising that a few homeless people in Kansas City created an underground camp. They dug a series of tunnels which they ventilated with PVC pipe…a creative way to get out of the weather and out of sight of the good people who dislike seeing them huddling on the streets and dumpster-diving for food.
Of course, once the authorities discovered the tunnels, it was all over. The homeless were handed some materials about local services and sent packing. This is how we deal with the homeless today. “How horrible! We feel so sorry for you. But you can’t live here. Now, on your way!” This happens, not just in Kansas City, but in every city and town in America.
Homelessness is a serious and growing problem in our nation. It’s time we find serious solutions.
Tearing down the camps and handing the homeless flyers is no solution. Many of the homeless won’t live in shelters. They understand that the shelters offer no real security. They often don’t know if they’ll have a bed for more than a single night. Families are often separated. Many can’t stand to sleep in a large room full of snoring people. Many don’t like the religion that is pushed on them by the shelter owners. Many just want a quiet place to themselves.
So many of the homeless seek to take care of themselves. (Isn’t that what most Americans want to see…personal responsibility?) They find out of the way places for shelter; in camps, under bridges and overpasses, by railroad tracks, even in tunnels. When they’re discovered, the police usually tear apart their camp, destroy their meager possessions, hand them some literature about services and transport them to another suburb or town.
Out of sight. Out of mind…
When is America going to finally admit we have a problem? When are we going to realize that a single catastrophic event could put any of us out on the streets? When are we going to understand that the homeless are our neighbors? They are the chronically unemployed, the addicted and the mentally ill. Many are veterans who couldn’t adapt back into polite society after witnessing and participating in our far too frequent wars. Many are families displaced by greedy banks who foreclosed their homes.
Imagine the talent, wisdom and potential that are going to waste on our streets. It’s time to stop shoving these people aside; time to look them in the eyes and find ways to help them help themselves.