As a vendor for Spare Change News, I have heard so many comments from people passing by regarding their views of homeless people in need of help. Lately, it seems that the comment, “What the homeless need is to get a job” has been stated more and more. What I’m about to say may surprise many of you readers, but bear with me for a moment and you will understand. I agree with this idea.
Programs such as Spare Change News were designed to help people who are homeless as well as those in need to supplement their income through employment, so they don’t have to sit in front of a store with a cup in their hands asking the public if they can spare any change.
I have stated many times in the past that with the way the economy is heading, we are all just one step away from being unemployed and/or homeless. Right now, there is no one person better than the other. I know that some of you may disagree with me and say, “I have a great job, home and family.” But remember that can change too, and then where would you be?
Working for Spare Change, I have witnessed many people who were once homeless, not knowing where their next meal was coming from, quickly rise from their predicament and get back on their feet.
A program such as ours provides an opportunity for those who for some reason or another cannot gain employment elsewhere. With jobs in high demand, those with a low level of education don’t stand a chance against people with a high school diploma or collage degree. I have never seen Spare Change turn its back on anyone seeking employment. If anything, they are welcomed with open arms.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still people who, due to personal problems such as mental illness, will always be better off holding a cup and hoping for your generosity in order to survive. But if they ever showed up at our doorstep, every effort would be m
ade to assist them in becoming part of our organization.
Remember, everybody deserves a chance and sometimes even a second chance at becoming a productive member of society. Just because many homeless people live hand to mouth on the streets, we are not to look at them as yesterday’s trash waiting for pick-up. They are human beings, just down on their luck for one reason or another.
I have learned that if you take the time to talk to some of these unfortunate people, you would be surprised at where many of them came from and what brought them to where they are now. Many of them either just don’t know how to rise from their situation, or don’t have the encouragement they need to get back on their feet.
Try to put yourself in their shoes just for a minute. No place to live, no money in your pockets. You even get thrown out of many establishments when you are in need of a restroom. Then there are the looks of the people that pass you by on the street, the look as if you were less of a person just because you don’t have a job. Do you honestly think that you could survive? Being homeless is the hardest thing in my life that I ever had to experience.
I was lucky—I found my way out of that situation. But I truly doubt that I would have without the help of Spare Change News. Because of my experience, I have grown stronger as a person and have learned that I am no better than the man living on a park bench, nor do I feel lower than a CEO at a Fortune 500 company.
In closing, the next time you hear someone tell a Spare Change vendor to get a job or the like, tell them that the vendor is working, maybe harder than you realize. And if you come across someone in need of a job, clip this article and have them read it—or read it to them—in the hopes that they find a way to our office.
Norman Watne is a formerly homeless Spare Change News vendor and vendor supervisor. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project.