Hello there, my name is … well just call me Homeless Joe. There are quite a few of us Joes here and our numbers are growing every day. There are a few homeless Janes here too. The look is the same for all of us: hopeless despair.
Where I am from, Wilmington, Del., there are actual places to get fed three meals a day, obtain free clothes, and receive other handouts. But that makes us bums in the public eye — every day people will ride by, give those sullen stares and occasionally venture a quip like “get a job you lazy bastard.” Of course, we are used to that by now. Yes, there is also police harassment and a sense that even public parks are not for homeless people (try to figure that one out)! Somehow, we have become a sub-species, entitled to fewer rights.
Here’s the point I am coming to: not everyone on the streets is a “low-life, derelict, drug addict or an alcoholic.”
Surprisingly enough, many of us are just like you. When you think about homeless people, think about this: there are former teachers, millionaires, professional photographers and businessmen here. The list can keep going. None of us started down this road wanting to be homeless, looking for handouts or picking from garbage cans. None of us want to be a target of street thugs, the general population, or the authorities. Unfortunately, we are singled out as being ‘no good’ people who just sponge off the system.
Well, my friend, you may have a job and a home, a wife and kids now. You may have a measure of security too. But God forbid you lose your job, your home goes into foreclosure, you or your wife become sick, and your benefits or insurance runs out. The list of risks goes on. Do you know why? Because you might be sitting right beside me here on this bench in Rodney Square, just like the rest of us homeless Joes and Janes. Funny too, because right across the street is the famous Hotel du Pont. But don’t try to use their public bathroom because if you’re homeless, they will spot you in a minute and Wilmington’s finest will be ready and willing to throw you into the patrol car and take you away.
I ask myself why this country can help the citizens of so many other countries ahead of its own. If you obliged some political leaders’ pleas to fill up this country with undocumented workers, you would have to give them benefits and jobs because they work for low wages. If our leaders have so many answers, then tell me, what is the answer to America’s homeless Joes and Janes? Why can’t we take care of our own first in this country? There are families here disbursed, living in cars, vans, the backs of trucks and alleys. All the while, billions are spent helping people around the world, many of whom hate this country.
You can end up here yourself my friend. It is not some social stigma, nor the place for a certain personality type. Not a financial criteria that brings you here either. I was a successful businessman at one time — now I struggle every day trying to find work. I send out no less then two applications a day since I hit the streets two and a half years ago. We are fortunate that there is so much here in Wilmington because this is not the case across the nation.
So before you pass judgment, why don’t you get out of your car, sit down with us and ask some of us how we got here and what we want to do to make it better. Do it, and maybe you will not be the next homeless Joe.