EXCELLENT blogpost over at SLO Homeless in San Louis Obispo provides what I think is the central unlearned lesson regarding what homelessness is like and what kind of help is most needed. Read the whole post, y'all; for a sample, here's the core of what blogger michael has to say:
…I am painfully aware that at the "end of the day" the homeless will still be homeless. They will have come no closer to escaping homelessness.
It isn’t because they enjoy living life on the streets for the holidays. It’s just that they presently have no other alternative. They haven’t been provided with the types of assistance which might potentially help them rebuild their lives.
Most folks are perhaps familiar with the adage that, "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for today. But, if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime."
The majority of the types of services offered to the homeless only feed (and shelter) them for today. The same holds true when members of the community personally engage in charitable acts for the homeless.
Yet, even when services are offered which teaches them "how to fish," the homeless still find it difficult to move beyond homelessness.
The reason: knowing how to fish doesn’t mean that a person will fish – especially if they do not have the rod and reel.
We can teach the homeless "how to fish." We can even show them the "where to fish."
However, due to their economic situation, there aren’t all that many homeless who will be able to acquire the "rod and reel" with which to fish.
Feeding and sheltering the homeless: there is no doubt that these are good things.
Nevertheless, as a society, we must go the extra step.
If we genuinely desire an end to homelessness in our communities, we must begin implementing the types of services and programs which truly offer the homeless with the ability to acquire the "rod and reel" so that they can "feed themselves for a lifetime."
That isn’t to say that society should just provide everything to the homeless without expecting them to do something on their own behalf.