The family unit might be what stands between you and homelessness; give thanks on this Thanksgiving

November 21, 2012

Please Note:

I realize not everyone who might read this is going to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving and that some people may not have family or at least not close to them (by proximity or otherwise) — there are always some generalizations in such essays.


Just having finished my Trader Joe’s instant frozen Chinese dinner and with my stomach full, I’m feeling pretty thankful on the eve before this 2012 Thanksgiving.

As I arrived in town last night from a road trip in my big truck it was raining hard, so hard I did not want to get out of the vehicle to drop the trailer as I needed to and to even bother transferring some stuff to my car to go home for some days off. Fortunately the rain let up a little, long enough to get all that accomplished, but it resumed and rained hard through the night.

At my place of work rivers of water streamed through the parking lot, so much so that even though I was on pavement I got water up into my work shoes.

And as I drove home through the adjacent neighborhood where the local homeless hang out, I thought how rough it must be to live out in the elements in such weather.

I had just a day or so before been chatting with my sister about the plight of the homeless. I said that as far as I was concerned no one should have to be homeless. There ought to be public shelters offered. It would be a good use of tax money, I thought. But I know such has been tried in the past. Sometimes it is the homeless who object. They do not want to be told where to live and when to come and go and are often concerned about their own safety and the security of what belongings they might have in such places.

She reminded me that in the old days homeless people (mostly men at that time, I think) were picked up as vagrants by the cops and put on county work farms.

I said I realized that if one had no family to go to one could easily find him or herself homeless. And she agreed and said that once dropping to that level one would be so demoralized that it would be hard to ever rise back out of it.

(And how do you show up for a job interview or have clothes to wear for it and what do you say about your current situation and recent work history if you are homeless?)

I don’t know why I seem to see so much more homeless people than I used to (and yes, I keep up on the news and know about the poor economy and so on). I notice that our local homeless — and I really don’t know their personal stories — seem to be a mixture of aimless (and maybe not all that unhappy) young people, drug and alcohol addicts, probably some Vietnam vets, and for sure some out-and-out loonies, and some out-and-out bad actors, and there is a definite mix of age groups. Again, I don’t know their individual stories, but I am afraid (well not afraid; that is just an expression of doubt) that bringing most of these people back into mainstream society would be nearly impossible for a variety of reasons.

I also don’t think we can just say they are homeless because they choose to be but we also cannot say most of them are homeless through no wish or act of their own.

Beyond or notwithstanding the color some of these people bring to the local street scene, I think homelessness is a blight on a community and a threat to public health. I mean where do they go to the toilet (where do you think?). And then there are the dirty drug needles left around, and they are probably spreading communicable diseases.

On that last point, I have to note that a lot of the street people hang out both outside and inside the local library. I hear a lot of hoarse-type coughing in there. I am both concerned for those individuals and for myself — I mean don’t we have a right to be concerned for our own health in public places?

I certainly do not suggest people should be put on county work farms. No I would suggest public shelters be built and counseling be mandatory in an effort to help those who are not beyond help. For the rest, we just have to have human understanding and patience and overall tolerance and just be glad it is not we ourselves who are homeless.

And this reminds me why families are so important to the social structure.

So enjoy your Thanksgiving and put up with those family members and be glad you have them.


I was in a community in the LA area the other day and noticed parked cars bunched up nearly bumper to bumper up and down the street and then I saw a line of people snaking around a building — the sign on that building read: “Social Services”.

And that building’s parking lot was also filled with cars. A woman was getting a baby stroller out of the trunk of one of them.

The cycle of poverty continues. And really this is a different subject.

But to the extent that one might assume that most of these people are not homeless, one might almost have to admire the rough and ready and almost self-reliant, live-by-their-wits homeless.