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StreetWise Feature: Vendor Essay ‘The homeless meet the merciless’

Fri, May 25, 2012

Many people make light of the problem of homelessness. But homelessness is not a laughing matter. In fact, homelessness is a very serious problem, and yet, each year, the problem gets worse and worse.

First and foremost, let’s not gloss over the dangers of living as a homeless person. I would not accuse any homeless person of being in the safe zone by any stretch.

For example, I was a victim of a robbery in the very early morning hours on the northbound CTA Red Line Train. I had fallen asleep on the train close to dawn. While I was sleeping, my pockets were slashed with a razor blade and my money, debit card and state identification card were all stolen.

When I woke up a lady said, “two dudes just robbed you.”

The L trains can be dangerous for homeless people. However, the shelters are nothing to sneeze at either. Let me explain.

There are many things wrong with homeless shelters.

The staff and management often mistreat homeless people.

One example is that many shelters are affiliated with religious organizations. In order to eat there or to have a place to sleep at these shelters, people are forced to go into a room and participate in religious music and speeches that are not always in accordance with your own beliefs.

What I wish these faith-based organizations realized is that when they try to force their religious beliefs on people, it causes resentment and is counterproductive. But if they try to gently and humanely encourage people to consider their religious lifestyles, a better success rate might be possible.

For instance, if they provided access to a minister when a person chose to go for help, information or encouragement, I might even go for a talk, even though it has been many years since I have been to church.

There are also strict rules about what time you have to be in the shelters at night. This can be a problem if you have to commute from a job, or if you work at night and need to sleep during the day. The curfew and the forceful approach to religious instruction make you feel like a child. Homeless people need to be treated with the respect and afforded the same civil rights that all people deserve.

Written by: William K.Plowman
StreetWise Vendor

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One Response to “

StreetWise Feature: Vendor Essay ‘The homeless meet the merciless’

  1. Katie says:

    What great article, Willie! Well written and highlights issues of which too many people are unaware. I’ve read both your articles and I hope to read more in the future. You’re a great advocate for change!

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