On Homelessness and Humanity

A couple of weeks ago, the executive director of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change News, read my column, “Homeless People Don’t Matter,” and it stayed with her for some time.

“How did we get here?” she posted regarding the story, which was about the lenient sentencing of a security guard who assaulted a homeless man in Boston’s North Station in broad daylight. The court basically gave him a free pass and sentenced him to what amounts to a fine for drinking in public. So how did we get here?

For me the first thing that comes to mind after thinking about that question for a while is that we’ve lost touch with our humanness, if there is such a word. We’re lacking compassion for our fellow men and women and, in fact, for ourselves.

Why is that? You can point to any number of things: reality TV, politics, social media, etc.—the list goes on and on. We’re too caught up in other social justice issues that we deem to be much more important than people overdosing in fast-food joint bathrooms; women running away from their abusers with their children in tow, forced to prove they’re living in uninhabitable situations before the state will give them shelter; children booted from their homes for choosing to be who they truly are; and disabled vets sleeping in squalor, suffering from mental illness after fighting for a country that refuses to take care of them when they return home (we ought to be ashamed of that). And people being beat down whose only “crime” is being poor.

Homelessness doesn’t care about race, boys and girls, or climate change, or terrorism, or war, or conspiracy theories or who the president is or is going to be. Homelessness does not have a two-or-three party system.

Also, I can’t scold others without scolding myself. Even I have found myself in recent weeks drifting away from what my passion truly is. I listen to too many people about too many things when all I really want to do is find a way to end homelessness.

Maybe I too forgot my humanness for a minute, and “being human” means that, for me, all homeless lives matter. We’re all about survival. We don’t have time for racial squabbles or whether the glaciers are melting. We don’t discriminate against people who have no rights because of their gender. None of us have rights; if we did, homelessness wouldn’t be an issue.

I’m not saying homelessness is more important than any other issue … or maybe I am. Because if we can’t solve homelessness, which is more about saving lives, including our own, then the reality is we can’t solve anything.

It’s all about remembering that we are all human.

James Shearer

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

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