How cruel it is that our super-rich
society -- the most affluent the world has ever seen -- forces the homeless
to participate in a humiliating "lottery" to determine who will
have a bed for the night, and who will sleep out in the cold. As if we
couldn't just provide simple shelter for any human being who needs it to
avoid freezing to death in the harsh winter weather.
In a Minneapolis
church, there are only 9 beds and 61 homeless men. I guess to make
it pure chance, with no possibility of accusations of unfairness or
favoritism, the director of the shelter plucks bingo chips from a red
plastic bowl to select the lucky ones who will get a warm meal, a chance to
shower and do a load of laundry, and a bed to rest in.
Actually, some of the other homeless
men won't have to sleep on the street. The shelter with the lottery is
known as the "Cadillac of homeless shelters in the Twin
Cities." That's because it has food, a shower, a washing machine
and a real bed. Those who lose the lottery maybe can get in one of the
other two shelters, which have thin mats on the floor to sleep on, and one
of which -- a former morgue -- has no food, no showers and only a portable
Many readers immediately get what I'm
saying, that no brother or sister human being should be treated like this in
the United States.
However, other readers are already
reaching to click the "Comments" page link, so they can tell me
that if these lazy bums don't want to work, then the hell with them, let
them freeze on the street. STOP. Before you go to the comments
page to fire off your missive to me, please read just a little more.
Aren't many of these people on the
street mentally ill? Surely you have some sympathy for them?
And what of the rest? Just
getting what they deserve?
Not so. A study found that 41
percent of homeless men and women in the Twin Cities in 2000 were employed.
That is up from 19 percent in 1991.
Yes, they are employed full time, but
their jobs don't pay them enough to afford a roof to put over their heads
This situation violates a fundamental tenet of the "social contract," that if you work a full-time job, contributing to the
functioning of society, you will be rewarded with enough funds to at
least minimally survive.
Please also consider: the number of
people in homeless shelters in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis
and its suburbs, rose steadily from about 600 in 1986 to over 3000 in the
year 2000. The number or working homeless more than doubled. And
the critical third piece of data: during that same time period, income
inequality in this country dramatically increased, with the wealthy taking a
greater and greater share of the income pie.
Do you get it? The pie isn't big
enough, apparently, to give the rich as much as they want, and
provide a high enough income to those working at the bottom of the scale so
they can afford housing.
A generation ago, even the most
pitiful Bowery bum had a flophouse he could sleep in. Homelessness in
the United States was not a concept I even think existed back then.
Our collective national heart has
become so hardened that we just accept the fact that there are millions of
homeless among us.
That old saw "the rich get richer
and the poor get poorer" needs to be updated a bit. The poor just
don't get poorer any longer. "The rich get richer and the poor
get homeless" now seems more accurate.