As a non-scientific observation after a month and a half I’m prompted to ask why is it that in spite of the concern about Mexicans crossing over the border, that in our part of the Rio Grande Valley we aren’t seeing homeless people. I’m saying this because in most of the places we have visited in the last five years homelessness has never been far from obvious. In nearly 6 weeks homelessness hasn’t been very evident; a couple people but not in the numbers we have seen in other places.
In Oregon especially we were struck by how many poor and homeless were camped out in the federal forests, and on the highways, just out to be seen. Last summer at Highland Ridge we had the periodic homeless individual or family who stayed as long (or longer) than they were supposed to stay. And at the rest area on I-94 as you enter Minneapolis I noticed awareness bulletins making travelers aware of certain homelessness programs. We have been aware of similar situations in many of the places we have traveled.
What I find striking is that in an area northerners perceive as dangerous because of illegal immigration that the visibility of homelessness is lower than I would have expected in any other part of the country. I know that the local Hispanic population is particularly family oriented. I suppose that could account in part for what we see with our eyes. I know when I was young in Milwaukee the city was filled largely Eastern European and similarly family oriented. I know there were times that we had people staying with us on every bed and many of the flat surfaces in our apartment — caring for those who needed a place to stay.
I’m not an expert in why people become/stay/choose/are stuck being homeless. I realize there are a lot of sad stories; a lot of tragedies; and also a lot of choices to make that a person’s life. I don’t understand it. I really don’t. But sometimes things strike me. Like driving through certain parts of the south where rural poverty abounds; you drive through miles and miles of countryside and poverty is what you see. I’m struck when I see neighborhoods where zoning seems not to apply — I remember areas in Coastal Oregon where expensive homes stood side by side with burnt out mobile homes and tar paper shacks.
None of these things are good or bad. They are what they are; they epitomize life in the U.S. of A.. Glass skyscrapers and rusted out factories, rich and poor, people living on the streets and others living in mansions. The U.S. citizen has a big heart but that doesn’t mean that we have figured out ways to see that everyone is caught by the safety nets — nor have we even decided as a population that everyone should be caught by the social safety nets. The recent election revealed just how deep disparity is; and I’m sure there will be struggles in the next decade over how to resolve those issues.
I don’t have any answers, but as we we approach the season of good will toward men I hope we can all be a little more aware of those around us: of the poor and the rich, of the desperate and those who have isolated themselves so as not to feel the pain of others. We’re in a new place with this house and I’ve been thinking a lot about how and when we can be a positive influence among those around us right now.
I hope you all have a happy holiday season… things are getting pretty celebratory here already and we’re still about a week from Christmas. Thanks for stopping, and why not check in again tomorrow and see what’s happening. 🙂