Ever since living downtown Los Angeles, I have been buying an inordinate amount of McDonalds' cheeseburgers and Marlboro cigarettes. Not because of a sudden urge to drastically decrease my chances of a long life, but rather because of a gentleman named Gregory.
Gregory is homeless and lives right in front of the factory loft building I've been renting in. And from what me some local nuns have been telling me, Gregory Michael has been homeless for a long time, does no one harm and does not want to go into a shelter.
Now I know many of my friends will jump up and say "See, homeless people don't want help. They're homeless by choice and if they didn't want to be homeless, they should just go and find a job."
And before I defute that argument, let me ask you. How many people have ever tried to really help a homeless person?
Some have, but most of not.
But you are right, Gregory chooses to be homeless at this point. He has given up on himself, and he has given up on our society.
It's tragic that at this point he has given up. But what's ten thousand time more tragic and pathetic is our failure as a society.
Gregory is, at this point, mentally ill. He mumbles to himself, sleeps on concrete and eats out of a trash can. If you bring him a blanket or a jacket, there is a good chance he will get it stolen by some other homeless person.
Darwin's law at work. Survival of the fittest.
Great job America.
My guess is that Gregory is a veteran, who at some point we called a hero. At some point Gregory made the kind of sacrifices for our society that we should be forever thankful for.
Instead, we gave up on him. Because heroes must always be strong and if you aren't strong, then you can't be a hero anymore.
Right now there are about 1.5 million veterans who are at risk of homelesness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. Any given night, 67,000 of those veterans sleep outside. Roughly 56 percent of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 12.8 percent and 15.4 percent of the U.S. population respectively.
I give credit to the Obama administration for trying to do something about it - with the goal of ending Veteran homelessness by 2015. Last year the number of homeless veterans decreased by nearly 12 percent.
Not to get political, but when I hear shit like Mitt Romney telling us that "the very poor don't concern him," then I wonder what country the guy lives in? I know he shelters his money in the Cayman Islands, but in America as many as 3.5 million people experience homelessness in a given year (1% of the entire U.S. population or 10% of its poor), and about 842,000 people in any given week.
Anyways, I don't care about Romney. The guy is a liar who is completely out of touch with reality. If he becomes president of this nation, then well, we'll know that money truly can buy you anything here.
What bothers me is that a society, too often than not, we are the ones looking for excuses of why we can't or shouldn't help others.
The next time you see a problem, rather than trying to justify to yourself why you shouldn't help other people because it's their own fault - maybe ask yourself what you can do to help.
The next time you see a homeless person who might be a veteran, ask him or her if there's anything you can do to help.
The next time you see a homeless immigrant family, stop this nonsense thinking about how they should just go back to their country. Other than you're Native American, your heritage is just as unwanted here as the people you're pointing your fingers at. Think about why we celebrate Thanksgiving, and learn about the Wampanoag Native Americans helped the Pilgrims by providing seeds and teaching them to fish. We have a lot to learn from the people whose continent we live on.
The next time you see a problem, stop looking for excuses in others and take some action yourself.
I am not a great person. I am inherentely selfish. Everything I do is meant to make me happy.
But when I see a guy eating out of trash can in front of my home, then I am going to offer him food. And if he's there every night, then he'll get a goodie bag every night. And if he likes McDonalds cheeseburgers and Marlboro cigarettes - then I'll buy him those too.
Thank you Gregory for teaching me to take action rather than make excuses.
You're still a hero.