Aid for the homeless

Joey Garcia

I have been researching the benefits of moving to San Francisco, where more opportunity exists in my profession. But I hate seeing the streets crawling with homeless and disenfranchised citizens. I feel guilty that I have to turn down so many panhandlers while I have a full stomach and a house. How can I deal with these frustrations and be part of the homeless solution?

Treasure your generous, sensitive heart. Then understand that the suffering of our brothers and sisters on the streets is particularly poignant for you right now because you are searching for a “home.” You yearn for a city and an employer that will value your talents and skills. Awareness of this correlation will assist you in being an agent of change for the homeless.

Let’s examine reality. The majority of people who live on the street, in any city, are chronically homeless. That means homelessness is not a temporary condition of their life; it is their life. The chronically homeless generally suffer from mental disorders. This is their pattern: They forget to take their medication (because while on meds they feel so good that they think they don’t need meds anymore), so they lose living situations and jobs. Once on the street, they self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, wreaking havoc on their minds and bodies. Other chronically homeless people become addicts in an effort to ease the terrible suffering that lingers after childhood abuse. They disintegrate emotionally until they don’t care where they end up. The streets embrace them.

Homelessness and addiction are symptoms of deeper emotional and mental problems. So, when a person whose home is on the street asks for money, I respectfully say, “No, thank you!” rather than contribute to the continuation of their suffering. Then I pray, silently, for that brother or sister. Instead of paying the homeless, tithe to agencies that serve them or agencies that serve people in recovery from addictions. Or mentor troubled youth, guiding them into self-confidence and away from the tangled beliefs that foster a lifetime of suffering.

My 13-year-old daughter told me that my fiancé of five years started molesting her six months ago. He swears it is untrue. He now suffers from depression and crying spells. He cannot believe my daughter said this. Their relationship was an uphill battle; he was strict on her. My daughter now acts like everything is OK. I am so confused.

Please tell me that he has moved out of the house or does not come to the house. Tell me that your daughter is seeing the best therapist you can afford and that she attends at least one session a week. Tell me that your fiancé is in therapy to process the feelings related to this experience. If you have not taken these steps, tell me why.

It’s your job to protect your daughter, even if you really, really want your fiancé to be right. If she was molested, she needs you. If she was not molested, she needs you. A lie that large tells you that she misses your attention and will do anything to get it back. Be honest: Have you been neglecting her emotionally? Does your fiancé handle all the discipline? Are you so grateful to have adult, male attention that you will keep it at any cost? Tell me that you are going to therapy. Now.

Meditation of the week
My homeless friends and I were at a downtown corner near a coffeehouse, watching morning-commute traffic. We listened to the cacophony of horns and car radios, watched the tense faces of drivers and exclaimed at the occasional launch of a middle finger. “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” said Mac, as he finished a still-warm coffee trashed by a woman who had rushed out to join the fray. I laughed hysterically. How do you judge your life?

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