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There are people like you and I who have had the misfortune of losing their homes, through job loss, fire (in an uninsured house) or for other reasons — in some cases a result of their own irresponsibility.
These are the homeless.
In the public library, in Levittown, PA, where many of them go to exchange information, they read books and use the resources to look for jobs. Some, however, just play all day.
Just outside the library, the homeless hangout at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. They have discussed Shakespeare and have other intelligent conversations. Sometimes not.
Sometimes at the memorial, the homeless discuss their situations and problems. On one occasion, a guy exclaimed “this is a therapy session” and walked away.
Some of the homeless people have found jobs, some regular and some intermittent. At one of the community meals for the homeless and needy, two homeless guys talked about their recent jobs. These guys, who want to work, longed for having a routine. One of them now has a routine, substituting as a bus driver, with the possibility of a full time job.
Although some of the people are not in tent cities but scattered in various places, they band together in their challenging situation, like the characters in John Steinbeck’s THE GRAPES OF WRATH. There is even a woman in a wheelchair that hangs out with the homeless, whom the younger homeless folks call “mom”. A matriarchal type in the group, she resembles Ma Jud in the Steinbeck novel.
And “mom” and her husband have offered parental advice to some characters that get out of line. On one occasion, some guys got drunk at the memorial and almost started a fight. One of them came over to greet “mom”, but she talked as though she was disappointed in him and she and her husband gave him a “Dutch Uncle” talk. The volatile situation was diffused. Just barely.
Like any other population, there is a bad element in the homeless population, which makes a bad name for them. Generally, the homeless community shuns those who create problems — they police themselves.
Two homeless men became drunk and disorderly on another occasion at the memorial. The authorities were called in and the offenders were busted. After the drunks were apprehended, an overzealous Bucks County Ranger, who was called in to help, said he was going to kick others, who happened to be homeless, out of the memorial for loitering. A friend of the homeless questioned the ranger and called him “Officer Fife”.
“What did you call me!,” demanded the overzealous ranger.
“Officer Fife. I thought that was your name, sir.”
Sometime after this ordeal the friend of the homeless met with the Chief Bucks County Ranger which resulted in the overzealous ranger leaving the homeless alone and they agreed for the folks who hang out at the memorial to police themselves. And they did — rousting troublemakers.
WHO THE HOMELESS ARE NOT
There is a story of a wayward pilot who got off course on his way to Roswell, New Mexico and ended up in Pennsylvania, landing on the roof of the Levittown library. He deposited eggs that oozed through the cracks in the building and slid between the pages of books in the library. They hatched and turned into worms. These bookworms found their way out of the library and crawled into the woods, where they took on human form. They became, the story goes, the homeless.
Anyone who has watched sci-fi movies, especially the old ones, knows how unwelcome aliens are here. They are not accepted and the military is called in to destroy what they consider a threat. They are not like us.
To some people in Bucks County, the homeless are aliens and they don’t like them in the library, even when they are not causing problems. They have been harassed by some librarians, especially the head Levittown librarian. On one occasion, when someone asked why the restroom was closed so long, she was told it was to keep the homeless out of the library!
WHO THE HOMELESS CAN BECOME
The homeless need to work, at least in some capacity, and to become responsible and be held accountable for their actions, like everyone else. Volunteers from organizations such as the Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN), an interfaith organization, give them a hand up to get back on the road to find a better, productive life. They help with their physical needs as well as minister to them.
I’m a great believer in restoring people. Some folks became homeless as a result of addictions and other character flaws that caused them to loose their job and house, and others who became homeless mainly due to job loss, end up choosing an addictive lifestyle. They try to escape their difficult situation through booze and drugs. Volunteers from AHTN and hosts at the community dinners try to point them in another direction — to God.
Broken people have to want to change themselves.
To give the homeless an opportunity, Gimmee Shelter for the Homeless was created. It is soliciting funds through GoFundMe.com, a crowd funding website and aims to acquire and develop property for the homeless, using the homeless to this end.
HOMELESS PEOPLE NEED TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE
Homeless people need to be held to the same standards as the rest of the population — no more, no less. By treating them with respect and encouraging and helping them, while holding them accountable, we can genuinely help the homeless. By showing them God’s love and giving them a chance, some of them may just make it out of their situation.
Just as is the case in the sci-fi movies, where aliens are misunderstood, our society, especially in Bucks County, doesn’t really understand the homeless.
They really are just like us.