As I was suffering through the June heat yesterday, with the unexpected warmth and reading the weather channel’s dire warnings: “Heat Kills” and “Stay hydrated” I began to wonder about the part of our population we choose to ignore.
I live in Boston so it’s hard to ignore the homeless, yet me and countless others have become quite good at it. We take wide berths when passing them on the streets, we choose seats on the train as far away from them as possible, we stare stoically ahead when they beg for change in our periphery.
Yesterday though, they were on the forefront of my mind. I watched as two of America’s byproducts walked into starbucks and asked for ice waters. Then went back to their stations outside in the sun. It then occurred to me, if not all barristas are as nice as the ones in Cambridge, where do our homeless go for a drink? We definitely do not have public water fountains anymore. Then it struck me: WE DO NOT HAVE PUBLIC WATER FOUNTAINS ANYMORE. Nor do we have public payphones. How are our homeless surviving? Then an even worse thought occurred to me. They probably aren’t. We just don’t care enough to know.
Last week I heard a homeless woman tell a homeless man how she was kicked out of all the shelters in Boston and Cambridge. The streets are dangerous for everyone, but more so for a woman who is just not physically as strong as her male counterparts, especially when she is homeless and not getting her nutrients.
How is this happening? How are we just not caring for our homeless? And yes, they are OUR homeless. We aren’t a third world country, we are apparently the richest country in the world. How embarrassing for us to not help our own unfortunate.
Many of us like to think that people are homeless because they deserve to be, they have ruined their lives by taking drugs and now are on the streets because they were unable to take care of themselves. This explanation makes us all feel better when we choose to ignore them and despise them instead of feeling pity or sorrow at their plight. However, this is only partly true. Enough studies prove that many of the homeless became so solely because they could not afford to pay for a roof over their heads.
Take into consideration what minimum wage is nowadays. Then see what the average price of a one bedroom apartment is. Add to that the cost of food, transportation, and the like. Now you tell me if everyone can afford this. Add to that a disability, lack of education and the odds are stacked high against you.