Friday, February 01, 2008

It kind of makes your heart ache...

I really don't like seeing people in discomfort, but it's pretty much a daily thing, especially this time of year. Kansas City's urban core has a sizable poverty problem. Try as the city government may to revitalize areas of blight and destitution, the fact remains that many homeless still dwell the streets. When I go to lunch, I see people sleeping in the alley behind my office. When I get my morning mocha, I see people huddling close to City Center Square. They wander in and out. Maybe they're rummaging the garbage bins for leftovers. Maybe they're changing clothes or trying to clean themselves a bit in the bathrooms. Maybe they're just trying to get out of the cold or out of the blistering summer heat. I'm not sure.

One thing is for certain though. Teetering on the brink of starving and freezing to death at the same time will take its toll on a person's sanity, and this morning, patrons of City Center Square got a heck of a show, probably due to this fact. Sitting there, sipping my morning Mocha with Lorin, we heard some noise from the corridors of the food court. Soon, there was a lot of clamoring, and people flocking into Starbucks or simply leaving the building. Someone was very, very unhappy. It was a man that I'd seen plenty of times before. I can assume he's under-privileged at the least if not homeless.

The screaming and shouting wasn't full of anger. It was full of desperation. The cries came not from his lungs, but from his very soul. To the un-trained ear, this is just another madman being dragged back out into the streets, kicking and screaming. To me, though, I hear something much more visceral -- a cry for survival. It was one of the most god-awful sounds I've heard. I'm not sure if the man had done anything more illegal than loitering. Sometimes, theft is a bit of a problem. During back-to-school season, people would come in off the streets and steal things out of the donation bins. Panhandling is also a problem downtown, but it seems a lot of people seem to just get kicked out of CCS for no reason other than loitering, though.

Regardless, I'm really torn on this subject. I've seen people pull themselves up by the bootstraps to overcome these kinds of situations to better themselves and their way of life without a lot of help from others. At the same time, I wish I were really able to help them a bit more than I do, but really helping without contributing to their complacency about their way of life.

Well, all I can say it was an interesting morning. And I really feel bad for that guy right now.

Random Tunage:
T.A.T.U. - All The Things She Said
Robert Miles - Children

7 comments:

Revrunner said...

My church is hosting the homeless for a week beginning in just a little more than a week now. That's certainly not the answer to the underlying causes of homelessness, but at least it can help alleviate some of the misery.

Maybe you can encourage your church to become a shelter or, if that's not practical, maybe it can partner with other churches to help. And maybe through your church you can help put pressure on your local government to do more to assist the homeless.

Anonymous said...

Vey sad situation,you never know what that person has gone thru,most people think they are just lazy,but what they might not know is if a loved one was lost or a addiction has overcome their ways of living a normal life.Drinking had a big grip on me years ago to the point of losing everything ! but i and like many others must fight the demons(temptations),i now just grab one of my bikes and start peddling !i now love my bikes instead of wiskey & beer! good topic.

Jamie said...

Great post. And the fact that you noticed all of this is something that I commonly hear as one of the benefits of cycling - the reconnection with society. It's too easy for drivers, in their moving isolation booths, to tune out society and ignore the less fortunate as they whisk by.

Some people say they should have the right to do just that. I disagree. If you can harden your heart enough that you can walk or bike past these folks without feeling something, that's your business. But you shouldn't be able to enable yourself to fly past quickly without even noticing them. That's just heartless.

MRMacrum said...

A very interesting stat about the homeless - 1 in 4 is most likely to be a veteran.

Who knows what demons they have floating around in their brains from their time serving our our country. But if the percentage is that much, it speaks very poorly for the support network our vets have when they leave the service.

I am with you- torn between not feeling much empathy for slackers, yet I know it is more often than not, a case of emotional or mental issues.

I once spent an afternoon with a homeless black woman in Baltimore as a teenager. I gave her some money for some MD 20/20 and we split it, passing it back and forth in it's paper bag as we sat on some back water wharf at the Inner Harbor.

It was my few hours with her so many years ago that made me realize that these folks do not necessarily choose to not fit in, something in their soul prevents it.

Fritz said...

I'm glad you're sensitive to the issue and haven't become jaded by the presence of the homeless around you. If you want a real eye opener, volunteer and spend some time at a homeless mission or shelter. Many of them can use the help, especially if you can stick around for more than a couple of days.

A lot of the homeless have significant mental health issues. Drug problems are a result of them trying to self medicate.

Jett said...

Around 1975, there was a policy shift regarding an invisible segment of our population, the roughly 2% of our population with either schizophrenia or manic-depressiveness. According to the best science of the day, policy makers stopped subsidizing the costs of institutionalizing the mentally ill in the belief they would fare better amongst the general population. This probably remains true for the majority of mentally ill, but those without family or friends are usually out on the street.

Being out and about on the bike brings me into contact with many of my neighbors, including those without an address. It is interesting that many of them carry all their possessions on bikes. I greet them just as warmly as I do anyone else; they seem to carry a smile further down the road.

Frogman said...

For those interested, Kansas City does have a good homeless shelter downtown: http://www.cityunionmission.org/

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