VOICES FROM THE STREET: Does it really matter?

Another old female friend of mine passed away last week from a drug overdose. Homeless and, as far as I know, alone, she was young—in her early 50s—and a good woman, but I’m not going to bore you with her story, how she lived and how she died.

The reason why? Because it won’t change anything—it never does. When a homeless person dies, people mourn. Those who knew the person gather in silence and speak in hushed tones. They may have a beverage or two in their memory. The general public, if they hear about it, will say, “oh, such a shame.” They may have a little pity, feel a pang of guilt and then everyone will just move on.

And another homeless person will have died in vain.

So it doesn’t make any sense to tell you who my friend was. If I actually believed it would make a difference, I would grace you with her story and those of others I’ve known who lost their lives to the street. If I believed it would help.

Why am I so cynical? Because, boys and girls, I’ve yet to see the death of a homeless person galvanize the masses. I once heard an advocate say, “Will it take a mother and child freezing to death on a park bench?” The cynic in me says even this won’t do it. Heck, we’ve seen homeless kids die of an overdose in a public bathroom. The response? Hire security in fast food restaurants to keep them out.

Just last week, a homeless man was gunned down in LA’s skid row in broad daylight by the police. Not many protests and only some shouts have been heard. But not much. Oh and by the way, he was black. What? Only young black lives matter? Not a homeless black man? Have people become so desensitized toward homelessness? Why does it always take drastic measures for people to wake up.

Yes, the Long Island shelter crisis woke folks up and the new shelter will be running full steam in April. The mayor and his Boston 2024 buddies have moved on and everyone seems satisfied. In fact, if you watched the mayor’s little speech on the night of the census, let’s just say it looked like a show for the press.

So, I ask, does it really matter to you readers when a homeless person dies on the street? If so, prove it by doing something, and that means a little more than saying a prayer or serving in a soup kitchen or donating money to a shelter in their memory. Put pressure on the political powers that be to solve it, with real solutions, and ask them—no, tell them—to listen to you and to the homeless they are serving.
Don’t talk about it. Do something. As for my friend Bobbi, I will tell you something, she always said she was a good person and she always asked if she was still pretty? Yes, on both counts. I will miss her as I miss all my friends. I will mourn and maybe have a beverage or two. Then tomorrow I will wake up, get dressed and honor their memory by fighting for those that are still here. Maybe you won’t. But I always will.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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