Monday, June 28, 2010

Not Content With Homelessness

Yeah, I know I’m rockin’ the UU stereotype, but I loves me my NPR. Last night I was making dinner while listening to an episode of This American Life from a couple of weeks ago. (I also love their iPhone app.) The third act was about crazy myths that immigrants believe about America that turn out to be true. Most of it was pretty lighthearted stuff, Christmas lights, overweight people, public kissing, but what struck me was their shock at homelessness.

They couldn’t believe it was true. People flee from lands of poverty and tyranny, war-torn lands that offer little hope to come to the America that they pray is a land of plenty only to find that we allow our people to sleep on the street. One man commented that where he came from families would be ashamed to allow this to happen to a family member.

How did this happen? How did we become so comfortable with allowing Americans to live this way as long as we are lucky enough not to be among them? Why are we not ashamed of that? My cousin is mentally ill and formerly homeless; how did we as a family let that happen?

My fellowship has a commitment to helping Safe Harbor Inn, which provides transition housing for homeless families and I am proud that we are doing that, but I am not at all proud of the part I have played thus far. My United Way contact tells me that the average age of a homeless person in Anchorage, AK is 9 years old. Why are we OK with that? I don’t want to be OK with that anymore.

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