Lately I’ve been watching the old Lone Ranger episodes in the morning. At the end of each episode, after The Lone Ranger and Tonto (not that Army ranger) save the day, someone asks “who is that masked man?” The response: “Why, he’s the Lone Ranger”, says someone in the know. Today people don’t even bother to ask who the homeless are. The typical thinking is, he/she is a homeless person, spoken by someone not in the know.
Until late winter/early spring 2014, I didn’t know who the homeless really are. But then I could honestly sing “getting to know you, getting to know all about you…” And I learned to like some of the homeless people I got to know. Shortly before I became homeless myself, I got to know many of the homeless in lower Bucks County, PA.
Who are the homeless? The only difference between the homeless and the rest of the population is that they don’t have homes. They are not akin to the Walking Dead. We don’t see zombies walking aimlessly looking for people to eat when we enter homeless territory in the woods. The members of the Bucks County establishment are the Morlocks and the people who vote them in are the walking brain dead.
They 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 and sometimes as a result of a combination of causes beyond their control and irresponsibility.
One organization that has the right approach, right attitude towards the homeless is the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission. Unfortunately, it’s thrift store in Penndel, PA, the same town whose name is part of the mental health charlatans, Penndel Mental Health Center, is closing. It’s closing so the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission can better serve other needy people.
Don’t talk about us; talk with us – slogan coined by homeless people from the organization Picture The Homeless. Homelessness does not define your character, but is just the particular situation you are in. The common denominator is that, as Clarence “Frogman” Henry sang, they “ain’t got no home.”
As you’ll see in the video, some homeless people want help for legitimate needs while others want money for things that the not only need, but may be harmful or immoral. This is why it’s best to give the homeless things like food or medical supplies, blankets and not money, unless you’re sure. I’ve given homeless folks I know money to buy a meal at fast food places when we were there and saw them purchase food. That’s OK in my book.
The trick is, as a fellow volunteer at a food pantry told me when he knew I was hanging with the homeless, is to distinguish between who you can trust and who you can’t. I’ve learned to sort out the user-losers, who don’t want to help themselves, and the winners, who just want a hand up and who want to help themselves. I explore this in my book, based on my experience with the homeless in lower Bucks County and research. I also explore the prejudice against the homeless.