Wow, what a fucked up world we live in today. This morning an old man came to my front door asking for work, he said he needed to make $3 to buy bread. It was the most heartbreaking thing I've seen in a long time.

By the time I got to the door he had already started skittishly back across my shitty dirt yard, undoubtedly on his way to the house across the street. He looked almost afraid when I came out onto the porch, and was endlessly apologetic. He explained that he can't find a job, and that he needed $3 to buy bread. It made me feel even worse that I didn't have $3 to give him, or even some bread. My refrigerator has seen better days, at the moment we have a little frozen chicken, some salad, and lots of condiments to put on the food that we don't have.

But I have no right to complain, I'm a white kid from a middle class household (even if it is actually two middle class households). This guy had to be pushing 50, and he was practically licking my feet for $3, and that's wrong. Almost as wrong as the way our country tends to treat homeless people, like they don't exist. Almost as wrong as the way our charities treat the homeless, like they're somewhere just below stray dogs in the scheme of things.

Ever been to a park where they have benches with those funny little dividers? Well those aren't to make sure that only three people sit on the bench, or to assure us that our fat American asses won't be touching any other fat American asses. They're there to keep homeless people from sleeping on them. You know those "no loitering" signs everywhere? They're not to get rid of kids hanging out (well, they might be a little bit), they're there to keep homeless people from having somewhere to sit.

The government doesn't give a fuck about these people, they don't want to spend money trying to help them, giving them jobs, to at least doing something to help get them back on their feet. No, they spend their money putting up no loitering signs, adding funny little rails to the seats of benches, and paying cops to make sure there aren't any homeless people being homeless where we might see them.

The so-called charities that make such a big show of caring about homeless people are even worse, because for all the time and effort they put into their show of humanitarianism, they don't respect homeless people. When a stray dog gets picked up off the street they give it food, medical care, and then they try to send it back out into the world somewhere where it is wanted. They spend how much money getting stray dogs to good owners, sending the troubled ones to rehabilitative dog camp? When a stray person comes in though, they give them a little food, a room for the night, and then just let them loose again without really helping them at all.

This is really just another classic case of treating the symptoms but not the disease. Homelessness will be a problem as long as we keep trying to sweep it under the rug, trying to keep them from dying in the streets, and trying to keep them segregated to alleys and poor parts of town. Until we try to actually get them back into society, they'll stay outside of it.

give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish [or give him a fishing pole] and he'll eat for a lifetime

American Dream Photo by
Deon Staffelbach
Portraits by
Leroy Skalstad