Friday, August 8, 2008

Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses....



Land of the Free?

I have written in the past regarding the right wing verses left wing political view and how they seem to change over time as we age and have more life experience.

So I am sort of on the fence when it comes to the homeless here in Phoenix, AZ. I see more of them than most. They ride the buses, hang out around Circle K begging for money, they sleep in the parks and push shopping carts around collecting aluminum cans and scrap metal to sell for money.

Today was particularly fun, as I rode the free downtown shuttle to the Health Club during lunch, and found myself sandwiched between 35 transients on a bus that was designed to hold 25. It was a pleasant experience. The fact that they place the local homeless shelter (actually is a campus, it is the size of a large high school) between the State Supreme Court Building and Phoenix City Hall does not make the situation any better. White collar professionals and the homeless don't really like to mix it up that much.

Although, having been in close proximity to them for so long, I have come to admire them in some ways. It is evident that most of them 'choose' this lifestyle. Years of partying and drug abuse will make you end up here, and most of them choose to stay. Some are a bit loopy and some just like the freedom of having nothing but what is on their backs. I have seen more than I can count sifting through ash trays for cigarette butts to smoke, and I have seen others sitting under a shade tree reading Tolstoy. Just like the rest of society, it takes all kinds to fill up this subset of the population.

Which is why I don't think they should be offered any assistance what-so-ever. Aside from handing out protein bars and water so they don't starve, I believe that the social service agencies that 'cater' to these homeless are only enabling them to continue to fail. You have to fear reaching rock bottom in order to avoid it. If you hit rock-bottom and find that it isn't that bad some folks tend to want to stay. Throw in free showers, clothing, health care and food, and they will never leave.

I have ridden the downtown shuttle enough times to hear and see this legion of the downtrodden in action. These homeless have a 'system' and they know how to play it to their advantage. They know what agencies are handing out free 'stuff' on what days and the quickest and cheapest way to get between the shelters. They know what to say to get special treatment and they know the best places to sleep at night where the police won't harass them.

The better angels of our nature tell us to be compassionate and help the poor, but this is a farce. When the poor are poor by choice, the better angels of our nature are enabling the poor to remain poor. There is an old saying, that "the child won't leave home until you padlock the refrigerator". Work is never easy, and the rewards of success come slowly with time, but it is better to force them to realize this ethic than to allow them to simply survive.

In an election year, where we will all have to decide between liberal and conservative, what are your thoughts on this issue? Feel free to throw some stones at me in the comment section.