By Chris Setti
I am not homeless. I have never experienced homelessness. If luck is on my side, I never will experience homelessness. It is not a shame that this one nebulous and uncontrollable thing—luck—determines my fate? How awful it is that the roof over my head may have nothing to do with anything I have accomplished, but merely because of luck. Did I have anything to do with being born into a family that could afford a decent home, and could provide me with a good education? No. All that separates me from the streets is a bit of good luck.
What kind of country is this when life is determined by luck? Land of the free and home of the brave? There are plenty of brave people on the street who have been turned away this so-called bastion of freedom. The founders of this country envisioned a society not separated into classes. To the contrary, Howard Zinn once argued that the whole of United States history was and is determined by a struggle between the classes. Sometimes the classes are based on race, sometimes on social status, sometimes on economics. The common denominator, though, is that a proverbial roll of the dice dictates these. The collective of these separations causes the division of our society and tarnishes the dreams of our forefathers. A person’s worth fails to be measured by their actions of their compassion, but continually by chance. Are all people really considered equal when one person can buy political support while another is denied the very right to vote?
It would be convenient to say that all our problems stem from the institutions that we allow to run our lives. It would be just another symptom of our disease. Yet beyond the economic hindrances that our nation provides, in this country we have what Mother Theresa called a poverty of love. How many times that we passed a homeless person and thought that, because of their situation, they were either mentally ill, hooked on something, or just plain lazy? Unfortunately, I find myself guilty of this charge at times. But I am trying to change. If the cycle of poverty is ever to be broken, though, it will not be because we spent more money or developed more programs, for these are just side effects of the treatment. No, an end to homelessness will only result from a collective change in attitude. The attitude of “not my problem” is a scourge upon humanity. Homelessness is everybody’s problem, not because it forces us to avert our eyes, but because another human being is suffering while others simply just step over them. Until the people raise their voices in unison against this atrocity, the government will not respond.
Those of you reading this article have taken the first step. If you are a homeless vendor, then you are taking it upon yourself to make a difference in your own life in ultimate realization that they system will never adequately provide. If you bought this paper, then you are helping those who wish to help themselves. Ultimately, we all must realize that our lives hang in the balance, with the only thing that keeps us where we are being fickle hand of luck. Once we understand that common bond, maybe we will all be able to help each other find comfort and security. Not much separates people from homelessness and you must ask yourself, ‘When will my luck change?”
Copyright Homeless Grapevine Summer 1993 Issue 2 Cleveland, Ohio.