What exactly are we aware of?
Blog by Mike Carman
Someone shared an article with me last week that reported the unspeakable. A woman in Los Angeles had a bucket of hot diarrhea poured over her by a mentally unstable man who was homeless. The article spoke of her experience and the resulting trauma it brought. It talked about the condition of the perpetrator, who had previous accounts racked up against him. He was taken to jail, diagnosed with schizophrenia and psychotic orders, determined unfit to stand trial, placed in a treatment facility for two months, then released.
In a month that puts a spotlight on the homelessness that continues to grow around us, how do we respond when we hear these kind of reports? In reading some of the readers’ comments following the article (never a good idea), there were those sympathetic to the woman and wondering what could be done. There were the usual number of “California’s gone to the dogs- thanks democrats,” responses. There were those in favor of one-way tickets to Timbuktu for all those on the streets. And even those calling for the wholesale extermination of all those who are homeless. Wow.
I don’t have all the answers here, but I do know this: that we cannot afford to dehumanize those around us who struggle and suffer in ways we might never imagine. Just as there are multiple causes and contributors to homelessness, there must be multiple solutions. But the most important step is to recognize the humanity of those that are marginalized in our communities. Because if we choose to look down those on our streets and consider them less-than, we will soon fail to recognize the image of God in them, making it easier to do away with them than to work solutions for and with them.
Jesus once encountered a man who had been violently demonized (Mark 5), finding someone who would have been considered out of his mind by most of us. The man lived in a graveyard, was naked, had snapped chains with his great strength, cut himself with sharp stones, and cried out day and night. He was an outcast, living beyond the fringes of his community. Yet Jesus recognized him for his value as one created in the image of God, and delivered him from his situation.
I’m not saying that everyone who is homeless has demons. Just as not everyone who is homeless is mentally ill, a drug addict, or is lazy. Some may be, many others are not. The trouble is that we typically see or read about those who display anti-social behavior or bring great distress on others. But there are more – many more – who have slipped through the cracks and are trying to find their way back. Back into healthier relationships. Back into the job market. Back into the mainstream. Back into community. These people exist all around us, and with help (and I’m thinking of personal connections, not money), they have a chance. But it means that we must initiate some of that assistance. We who are “healthy” must reach out and meet these people where they are, like Jesus did the demonized man, and engage them relationally so they might be empowered to move to a healthier place in life.
Because those you see on the street corner and under the overpass have been created in God’s image and therefore have great value in his eyes. The question is, do they have value in ours?
As Homeless Awareness Month begins to come to a close, would you consider joining us in serving those experiencing homelessness through our Jobs for Life Program? We know we don’t have all of the answers to end homelessness but we can take a bite out of the issue. We are accepting applications for champions for our 9th Jobs for Life class starting tentatively on February 4th.
Can’t wait to serve with you,
Workforce Development, OC United