Sunday, April 08, 2007

Mind on Attacks on Homeless reported in Orlando Sentinel

The Orlando Sentinel recently ran an article addressing the occurrence of violence on homeless people living in Central Florida.

Orlando Sentinel: Attacks on Homeless at crisis point

Here is my response:

There definitely need to be studies revealing the cause of homelessness. And there certainly must be a concerted community effort to address the problem from a humanitarian perspective first and foremost.

After pondering this crisis, I had an interesting discussion with my wife this morning wherein I arrived at my original concern when we were first married and living in a run down apartment building in Wash DC. The brother of a neighbor was homeless and an alcoholic. His sister, our nieghbor, refused to house him because of his addiction, and likely other addictions, yet the brother continued to sleep in the staircase and on the landing in front of my apartment. My wife and I used to work late and come home at different times, usually stepping over the neighbor's brother.
After some self introspection this morning, I realized that as a new husband and young man, my greatest concern was for my wife's wellbeing. And as a young man, I judged that people in conformity, in particular concerned about one's own personal health and property, were less a threat than those out of conformity. Generally speaking, someone who is not in conformity with general human groupthink of self preservation (do not live on the street, do not sleep where rats live, do not inject drugs and become an addict, etc) was considered by me a threat, at some level.
And, the fact that the man's sister refused to house him revealed that he was some kind of a threat. So yes, I resented that the man slept in a stairwell in a building which I worked hard to house my wife. But my beliefs were to be merciful. I told the man my perspective: that as a young husband, I was prone to distrust him given his state. He agreed with me but he said he only needed a place when it got too cold outside and that the shelters were to dangerous. I said as long as he didn't endanger my family or the neighbors, I wouldn't object. He didn't. But more and more homeless began to linger around the building. One night, I even had to step over 2 or 3 men at the front door even before arriving at the man near my floor.

Needless to say, he became a regular fixture late at night. It was I that moved out of that building before he and the other homeless men did. It was indeed my religious beliefs and the example of Muhammad (saaw) that encouraged me to be merciful to these men eventhough at anytime they could have caused some kind of a problem. One morning, a homeless man likely drunk or high began to oggle my wife while she and I waited at a busstop. His drunken stare turned into him pressing himself against the window behind where we were sitting in a perverse way. That was the only time I had an overwhelming emotion at which I stood up and shouted at him to back away and hit the glass, perhaps almost breaking it.
Those days living on that street motivated me to move to the suburbs.

So questions are raised:
1) what are the causes of homelessness?

2)ascertaining the causes enable us to know the different types of homeless: children and families are a group, adult addicts are another, ex cons are another, mentally unstable are another, simple nonconformists are another- and these groups intertwine or intersect at points to form a unique group.

3) what can be done to address the needs of these groups, kids and families being a priority? The mentally unstable being another priority. Other priorities needing to be ascertained.

4)how much of the homeless problem is a regional or national trend wherein Central Florida is experiencing the result thereof?

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