People complain about the growing problem of transients and homeless people downtown, but I rarely see much honest effort into coming up with solutions. People call the cops. They complain that these people are lazy, but they know nothing about these people.
I live downtown, volunteer with My Backyard, and at the library, so I get lots of opportunities to talk to these people. They are human beings struggling with the same things most of us are. One man approached me outside the library, dirty and disheveled. He asked if I had any spare change. I did not, but I talked to him for a few minutes. “I’ll let you get on with your business, but I just wanted to say thanks for acknowledging me. Most people ignore me or look the other way.” He walked away smiling.
I did nothing for him, but treat him with respect. Politicians and people with an interest in helping to fix this problem should start with one simple thing: listening. Go to the Crisis Center; walk around downtown. Talk to people. You don’t need to bring money or solutions or anything other than a friendly ear. That small gesture will make the person you’re listening to feel better and give you a better understanding of the struggles these people face. Instead of treating them as inferior or a “problem,” try dealing with them as human beings.
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These people are members of our community. We should work to help them, not stomp on them.