Helping the Homeless

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What's the best way to help the homeless?

What's the best way to help the homeless? Source: SamPac hide caption

toggle caption Source: SamPac

A couple months ago, my Senior Producer, Carline, sent me a note about an intriguing press release: Pras, of Fugees fame, spent over a week on L.A.'s notorious Skid Row... with a hidden film crew. Interesting. Any time a celebrity or political figure vows to spend a week in someone else's (worn out, downtrodden) shoes, it seems like a stunt. But I loved the Fugees, and we've had Wyclef on the show before, so Pras had a bit more credibility in my eyes. So we decided to give the documentary a look. At first, yeah... I didn't feel terribly sorry for Pras, nor feel like his experience the first day was authentic — his Adidas were squeaky-clean, and he panhandled for $15, which he spent on a single meal at a reasonably fancy restaurant. However, things got real pretty quickly after that, as he began to get to know some of the locals on Skid Row... and his life became nearly as precarious as theirs. It's a a graphic, stomach-turning, and ultimately fascinating documentary, and it really did drive home for me how unimaginably horrific life on the streets really is. What it didn't do — and Pras is very clear on this — is offer solutions. Fortunately, there are some folks who see some, and they join us today. Have you seen the documentary? Have you ever been homeless?



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People without home addresses, phone numbers, showers, clean clothing, mental health, etc cannot get jobs and contribute to the economy. It is in the best interestes of everyone to contribute the small cost to provide the basic needs of people to get them back on their feet. But, demanding that people "fix themselves" within a limited period of time as determined by some "program" is unrealistic, especially considering the sometimes very serious mental health or drug addiction problems some of these people suffer from. Provide a way to allow people to pursue health and normalcy and they will surprise you.

Sent by pw | 2:28 PM | 11-29-2007

I work with homeless people and the one thing I've found essential is the need for ongoing casemanagement after homeless people become housed. The problem isn't solved once someone has a roof over their head. As your guest mentioned, many homeless are mentally ill and need ongoing support (help managing money and paying bills, encouragement to stay in treatment, advocating for the client with medical providers etc). There's a need for long-term support. Without this people wind up back on the streets when rent isn't paid, the client's mental status deteriorates or there are behaviour problems between formerly homeless people and the neighbors.

Sent by Beth Browning | 2:32 PM | 11-29-2007

I have always been a pretty resourceful person. Six years ago I was homeless for almost a year. Thats why (when I had a good job) I bought a truck with a top. When I lost my job and my home, I packed up my futon and my clothes and art supplies to head south for the winter. I felt hopeless of any possitive future,which was the worst part. It was hard to get a job without an address and keep that job because showering became infrequent. People can be very cold and hostile. I'm ok for now but, business is slow and I'm not far from the same situation again, only without a truck.
ps. I am landscape painter and if you can help my current stability please search my name and find my work. (the ps. was an after thought, no offence)

Sent by Aaron Szeifert | 2:39 PM | 11-29-2007

There is no shame in being poor, but it IS an inconvenience.

Those who choose to use drugs/alcohol, to the point that it destroys their lives should walk to Hawaii. I have NO sympathy for voluntary homelessness.

Those who are cronically mentaly ill should be locked-up for their own protection. Behavior promblems and all.

I've seen/worked with disabled persons(blind, deaf, wheelchair users, Yes, some have mental issues.) They WANT to be independent. Those people I help!

But, those that want an "easy life", with all their needs provided for can (should?) disappear from the face of the Earth. Make room for people that WILL do something with their lives.

Sent by Harold | 3:22 PM | 11-29-2007

A woman from Michigan phoned and said she recently received subsidized housing only after she had a child. Is birth control being addressed regarding homelessness? Why would she have a child in her circumstances?

Sent by cas | 4:59 PM | 11-29-2007

I have heard that the greatest sign of maturity is the act or recognition of sympathy. Juvenile detention centers are now using this same method to teach young offenders what it feels like to be in the victim's position. I think any attempt to understand a social issue with this kind of committment is commendable

Sent by Joseph Harris | 5:03 PM | 11-29-2007

During a few months in Key West, I spent time with many of the homeless people gathered there. Some of the greatest characters I have known.
Free humans voluntarily participate in society. Organized society benefits those of us who participate. Others who choose not to join us in our game like system find symbolic obstacles or fences obstructing basic survival.
It is our responsibility as fence builders and private land owners to share the bounty of this planet with these who do not see or understand this existence in the same manner as we might.

Sent by Essam Welch | 8:25 PM | 11-29-2007

It find it annoying when homelessness is assosicated with drug abuse. I don't believe the drug abuse among the homeless is any more or less than the drug abuse among the general population.
I am also irritated when the problem is tackled with charity. Homelessness is a supply-demand problem, which can be tackled with sensible monetary and fiscal policy.

Sent by kerthialfad | 9:54 PM | 11-29-2007

I was homeless once, with a three year old child. I couldn't go to shelters out of fear they would take my child away from me. I couldn't get any welfare because I had no address. The old catch 22. My sister who was barely keeping a roof over her head took us in. We slept on the floor and were never so happy to have someplace warm. But we still couldn't get any help because my sister had a job. I was finally able to find a job. Within 3 years I owned my own home. The goverment was no help, so called faith based services wouldn't help because we wouldn't bow to their gods. I was lucky I had one family member who stepped forward. Most people aren't so lucky. It is so very hard for me to see homeless people because I know the daily horror they go through.
I now live in a socialist country in Europe. They don't have homeless here. They take care of their people. Why doesn't the USA?

Sent by E. M. Franco | 8:32 AM | 11-30-2007

E.M. - so well put - the government simply doesn't take care of their people. The government doesn't take care of the consumer, the worker, the parent, the child, the student, etc.
In addition, there is this attitude by our government that somehow the solution lies - out there. And one can see this mindthink manifest in, for example , our "war on drugs". We bomb the coca fields of Columbia instead of inspecting at our borders, and doing interior enforcement. We want to fight them over there, so we don't have to fight them here. I see so many examples of this. Another example are these lead-coated children toys from China. We blame China (and China in response mea-cupas). But the lead-coated Chinese toys are not a problem in Europe, because they don't let them in the country. We should not let them in the country either, instead of blaming China's manufacturers.

Sent by kerthialfad | 2:06 AM | 12-1-2007

I'm organizing screenings of this film all over the country. I think everyone should see it. Pras' had the courage and commitment to live as a homeless man for nine days, so that this film could be made and be used to help raise awareness of the problem. I hope that millions will get to see it and ask their favorite candidates what they intend to do about it. For such a bountiful country, there is no excuse to have so many people living on the street. I'm from LA and we have close to 100,000. This is being mirrored in every major city in the country. I people will request screenings. One way, is to visit and request that the movie come to your city.

Sent by Linda Nelson | 11:30 PM | 1-24-2008

Is the producer JOHN POOLE the John Poole who was at Emerson in a MFA writing course in the early '90s?

Sent by suzie sims-fletcher | 6:01 PM | 2-10-2008

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