It’s the System, Stupid!

In 1967 Dr Martin Luther King asked a question: “Why are there 40 million poor people in America?” That question crosses my mind and the minds of every activist I have ever met, but that question stood out as I was making my way home as Boston prepared for it’s first snowstorm.

I sadly watched as homeless people attempted to make their way to a warm dry safe place, I watched from across the street as one elderly gentleman who was obviously mentally ill struggled to hold up his pants walking down the street, someone who knew him quickly caught up to him and helped him along which tells me that there is still kindness in the world.

But you’ve got to question why an elderly man who has both physical and mental disabilities would be homeless, who would allow that. What country would stand for that. America likes to pride itself of being this benevolent superpower that protects and cares for everyone especially its own, and yet according to HUD there are half a million plus that are homeless. Those numbers are probably far higher when you take into account that there are no real numbers on those that are hidden, a quarter of those homeless my friends are children according to the National Coalition of the Homeless.

How in the richest most powerful country in the world are there kids living on the street? Many so called educated Americans think that if people just get a job they’ll be OK – like I said, so called educated.

I know a lot of homeless people who do have a job but don’t make enough to afford what the going rate is for an apartment these days. No folks it’s not jobs, It’s the system, think about it, the homeless man I spoke about earlier in this column, how does someone who is elderly and disabled end up on the street? Where is his family? Does he have one? Do they even know where he is? What of medical care?

Of all these questions the first one is probably the most important. But that hardly gets asked and it should be. We should question a system when we see someone who could be our own elderly parent out here on the streets on a cold stormy night, we need to question a system that allows our children to be homeless, or women to sleep in cars with said children or why there are millions living in poverty and homelessness.

Many like to turn away and say “Well it isn’t me or my family,” but it very well could be. You could be living in poverty right now as you walk by this man or the woman with the cup asking for change or the child trying to keep warm. You’re probably on your way to your second or third job, you think you’re better because you have a job when the truth is you’re not living your surviving. You’re only a layoff or injury away from being exactly where they are right now. Only then will it hit you. It’s the system stupid.

James Shearer

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

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