I am, however, a recovering English teacher; and I like to verify my assumptions about what words mean. Here's part of my country's definition of "homeless." There will not be a test on this:
- "...the terms 'homeless', 'homeless individual', and 'homeless person' means—
- "(1) an individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence;
- "(2) an individual or family with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport, or camping ground;..."
Folks become homeless for many reasons. Some lost their jobs, others were evicted — because they or their landlord couldn't pay rent or keep up mortgage payments. Sometimes war or natural disaster forces folks to leave their homes - - - - -.
It's a long list, and includes substance abuse and being crippled in body or mind.
Some folks end up on the street because of 'weak moral character,'1 some were just in the wrong place at the wrong time when life happened. Either way — I'll get back to that.
(From Getty Images, via CityMetric, used w/o permission.)
"How 'defensive architecture' is designing the homeless out of our cities"I'm not sure what the authors meant by "London." A bit over 7,000 folks live in the City of London. About 8,500,689 lived in Greater London in 2014 — which doesn't tell me whether it's one of out ten Londoners sleep on the streets, or one in a thousand.
Rowland Atkinson, Aidan While; CityMetric (January 4, 2016)
"On any one night in London, there around 700 people sleeping in the city’s streets. Rough sleeping is a risky decision – and almost always the choice of the most desperate. Yet the response of the state – and our society – is surprisingly hostile.
"Rough sleeping – and homelessness more generally – are on the rise. But austerity measures have made things worse, by cutting funds to vital support services. On top of this, rough sleepers have good reason to fear abusive behaviour from passers-by. Shockingly, this has even included physical attacks, resulting in documented deaths.
"But beyond the discomfort, the abuse and the absence of social support, there is another factor making life even more difficult for those sleeping on the streets. The very shape of our cities has started to reflect our hostility toward the homeless, in the form of design elements that prevent them from seeking refuge in public spaces. This phenomenon is known as 'defensive architecture'....."
My guess is that they meant Greater London. One in ten residents on the street seems like a high percentage.
The good news in that CityMetric article, as I see it, is that some municipalities changed laws and regulations in an effort to protect folks at the low end. Some property owners are helping, too:
"Manchester United stars Neville and Giggs tell hotel squatters: stay for winter"
theguardian.com (October 18, 2015)
"When Manchester United footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs got planning permission to turn the historic Manchester stock exchange into a boutique hotel ... they envisaged opening it up to an exclusive and moneyed clientele. Instead, a group of homeless people with little or no money have moved in – with Neville's blessing. Gary Neville’s kind gesture on squatting highlights growing rage over housing
"The hotel, which is undergoing extensive renovations before opening its doors to paying guests, was occupied on Sunday by a group of squatters and housing activists called the Manchester Angels. Instead of the usual response of property owners – rushing to court to obtain an order to get the uninvited new incumbents evicted – the famous ex-footballers who own the building have told them they can stay, not just for a few days, but throughout the coldest months of the winter...."
So, why should I care? Short answer: I'm a Christian, and take my faith seriously.
Like it says in Tobit 4:7: "...Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, and God's face will not be turned away from you."
Feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead, are "corporal works of mercy." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2447)
Thinking nice thoughts is nice: but we're supposed to do something about what we believe.
"6 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?I'm not wracked with guilt and shame because some property owners discourage homeless folks from sleeping on their stoops.
"If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day,
"and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,' but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?"
Participation in social life and working for the common good is important. So is taking part in public life as far as possible. (Catechism, 1897-1917, particularly 1913-1914).
I'm not opening a boutique hotel in Manchester, and don't determine zoning regulation for the City of London. But I can write about what's happening, and "...promote institutions that improve the conditions of human life...." (Catechism, 1916)
At the moment, that's about the extent of my 'as far as possible' response.
As a Catholic, I'm inclined to look at Catholic outfits first, like Caritas in England and Wales Network (CSAN), "the official agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales for domestic social action."
It looks like they're doing a good job, but I recommend checking out any charity before donating. (March 17, 2011)
I think I understand the feelings of property owners and others who act against folks who are not friends, clients, or customers.
However, I realize that folks who are at the bottom of the social ladder are people, too.
Living much of my life with undiagnosed neurological glitches helps, and that's another topic. (February 8, 2015; December 14, 2014)
I take our Lord seriously, so I figure I should love God, love my neighbor, see everybody as my neighbor, and treat others as I want them to treat me. (Matthew 5:43-44, 7:12, 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31; Luke 6:31 10:25-27, 29-37; Catechism, 1789)
Earning money and buying property is "legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons" — and lets property owners help others, which is also important. (Catechism, 2401-2414)
The "dignity of the human person" is vital. Each of us is made in the image of God, but we're not identical. We're supposed to have different abilities and needs. We're also supposed to look out for each other. (Catechism, 1929, 1934-1938)
Acting like loving my neighbor, and recognizing the dignity of everyone? That's not easy. But like I said, it's important:
- "(Not) 'Going Native' "
(August 30, 2015)
- "Angst, Hope, and Building a Better World"
(July 5, 2015)
- "Beaver Cleaver and the Common Good"
(May 3, 2015)
- " 'Metropolis,' Plus 120 Years"
Apathetic Lemming of the North (November 21, 2014)
- "Caesar, Civilization, Dealing With Change — and Building a Better World"
(August 31, 2014)
1 It has been many years since I heard "of weak moral character" used to describe someone. I don't particularly like the term, since it was often used in a patronizing or condescending way.
A tip of the hat to Brian Matheny, on Google Plus, for pointing out the sensitive nature of that term.
My intent, as I recall, writing 'weak moral character,' was to refer to the attitude of folks with jobs, position, and a place to sleep, toward those who do not. Re-reading this later (Monday, January 18, 2016), I realize that I failed in that effort.
To clarify: I think some folks really are 'lazy bums' who are unwilling, not unable, to support themselves or seek the help they need.
I am also quite sure that many are in the position I have been in: willing to work, looking for work, and unable to find employment.
I avoided homelessness thanks in part to what my culture calls "good luck." I am hardly in a position to cast aspersions on those who, through no fault of their own, end up homeless.
Then there's the notion that folks with psychiatric disorders are 'of weak moral character.' I'm not likely to say that, since I'm one of 'those people:'
- "Suicide: No Future in It"
(August 22, 2015)
- " 'Months of Misery' and Job's Friends"
(February 8, 2015)
- "Suicide, Sin, and Dealing with Depression"
(December 14, 2014)