KA Gross - Writer
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The "Undeserving Poor"?

Thanks to Our Providers

Planting the Seeds of Change

Title 4

The "Undeserving Poor"?

The man on the other end of the phone today was upset because a visiting friend had told him he was wasting his money by supporting Seven Hills Homeless Shelter. She said that homeless people are just lazy and shiftless, and didn’t deserve his charity. Our 80-year-old benefactor was upset to discover that his friend had such harsh opinions of those we help, shocked at her lack of understanding and compassion. Ed knows that each month, his gift provides the goods and services that are most needed by those struggling to regain stability and security. Ed knows this because his son is one of our homeless guests.

In fact, many of our supporters have family members who have been homeless, or have themselves once fallen “down on their luck.” Often, parents are unable to provide the help their offspring need to become self-sufficient. But they call us often, just to see how the cherished son or daughter is doing. Most times, they don’t want us to say they called. I expect it is very hard to feel such love and yet not be able to help any more. For those who are chronically homeless, reclaiming a stable existence is a very long process, requiring much one-on-one help from many sources.

Imagine your car breaks down on an out-of-town trip and you for call roadside assistance. After assessing the problem, the mechanic tells you that he can’t help you, that you must repair the engine yourself. You are stunned, but look in the trunk for tools as the expert drives away, hoping to find what you need to effect the repair. Unfortunately, you are missing several necessary tools, and try as you may, you cannot figure out a way to fix the problem without them. You sit in the car for a while, hoping for inspiration, but none comes. You step outside and attempt to flag down a vehicle, but no one stops, as they are in a hurry to get where they are going, just as you recently were. Darkness falls and you become hungry, but still no one stops to offer help. You drift off to sleep, alone, afraid, cold.

Many times, this is what happens to people who suddenly find themselves stuck in the breakdown lane of life. Society tells you to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” especially if you’re male – but you discover you’re wearing sneakers. Solving problems requires knowledge and tools, or the assistance of someone who has them. Homelessness is not due to laziness, or moral failing, any more than being stranded on the roadside is. It happens because ones innate mental and physical capacities, combined with life experiences, have not provided adequate resources to cope with the increasing challenges of life in our society.

From whom do we learn to make good, healthy decisions? Where do we learn that we have value to the world, a gift to offer? How do we learn to trust? It’s so easy to feel compassion for children in need, yet condemn those same children once they are adults. Children evoke sympathy because we don’t expect much of them. They haven’t had time to learn to care for themselves. But reaching the age of 21 – or 40 – does not always mean that you’ve had enough time or opportunity to become fully competent. If only it were that easy! Often the “tools” that these children are equipped with – self-hatred, guilt, powerlessness, hopelessness, fear – are destructive, not constructive. Later, when faced with hardship, pain, or a life spinning out of control, they reach for those destructive means in order to cope.

Seven Hills provides the tools and the knowledge – compassion, guidance, information, and assistance – that allow both young and old to begin repairing their lives. With your financial, volunteer, and prayer help we are able to assist hundreds of people each month as they work to reach that goal. Please stop in to learn more about Seven Hills and those we serve. Share your toolbox. Hold a light for someone working in the dark. Help repair a life.

With gratitude,
Kimberly Gross, Director
Seven Hills Homeless Center
May 2003