One of the realities of our technologically saturated world is that technology is used to shape popular-culture attitudes. The prevailing sentiment, the frequently politically left-leaning default outlook, is quite often the product, in our society, of popular media in print, online, on the radio and on our televisions. It is generated by countless liberal talking heads propagating their bias and their worldview through the far-reaching, technologically enabled pulpits of their dumbed-down news and “infotainment” outlets.
One of the worst pieces of cultural misinformation perpetrated by popular media has been the myth of “homeless nobility” – this notion that simply being homeless confers on someone the status of victim. What’s more, popular culture tries very hard, hammering away at you incessantly through the web of technologically facilitated media outlets that surround you, to persuade you that you could be homeless at any moment. The idea that you would work hard to prevent this is an alien concept to popular culture. Popular culture preaches that you are a paycheck away from the streets.
What’s more, homelessness is rarely news when conservatives are not in power. You will not see the word “homeless” in the news nearly as often with Barack Hussein Obama in the White House as you did when Bush was in office. As famed conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh has said, “1.2 million households lost to recession – as friends and families double up, ‘overcrowding’ is up fivefold. What recovery? This is basically 1.2 million people who are homeless. You realize homelessness never even exists usually during a Democrat regime. Homelessness is exclusively a Republican presidential problem, but they can’t even hide this.”
Unfortunately, the myth that the homeless are, first and foremost, victims – that they are all members of an underclass we can call the Noble Poor – causes us to fail to see just how dangerous are the homeless. The average homeless person is a grave and personal danger to you and your family. If we refuse to characterize the homeless as anything but the danger they are out of our quite natural but misplaced sense of compassion, we run the risk of endangering ourselves.
We put ourselves, and all society, in a position of potential harm by failing to acknowledge the danger. We stupidly sit at intersections with our windows down, holding out dollar bills to people who could choose to pull a razor blade and attempt to rob us. We graciously offer our pity to potentially deranged men and women who just might choose to stab us or our children with used hypodermic needles. These are not hysterical attempts to make you afraid; these are facts. People who live on the streets are dangerous, often unpredictably violent predators, and they will hurt you or victimize you no matter how much you pity them.
Even homeless-advocacy groups readily admit to the problems within the street-person population. For example, the Treatment Advocacy Center estimates, in its fact sheet on the homeless, that one-third of the 600,000 homeless persons (as estimated by the Department of Health and Human Services) are schizophrenics or manic depressives. “Healing Hands,” a publication of the Health Care for the Homeless Clinicians’ Network, estimates that 38 percent of homeless adults have mental-health problems, while fully 46 percent of homeless men report alcohol problems (and 30 percent of them report drug problems).
The Treatment Advocacy Center’s Fact Sheet cites a 1993 study of HIV among homeless men in a New York City shelter, in which 19 percent of those living in the shelter tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS. According to a later study (April 2002) in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology (“Viral Hepatitis and Other Infectious Diseases in a Homeless Population”), “Chronic hepatitis C and co-infections are common among the homeless population.” Still another study, “Ectoparasitism and Vector-Borne Diseases in 930 Homeless People From Marseilles,” published in the journal Medicine in January 2005, concludes grimly, “Homeless people are particularly exposed to ectoparasites. … Over four years, 930 homeless people were enrolled. Lice were found in 22 percent and were associated with hypereosinophilia. … Twenty-seven patients (3 percent) with scabies were treated. … The uncontrolled louse infestation of this population should alert the community to the possibility of severe re-emerging louse-borne infections.”
This is not your future. You will not become homeless because you will act. This is not a sense of superiority; this is a sense of control. Those of us who do not believe we are “a paycheck away from homelessness” have an internal locus of control. We understand that, barring catastrophic illness, we will never not work. We will never not act to prevent our being homeless. We will never not fight to keep the wolf from the door. We also know that our failings, our tragedies, are the results of our own mistakes. They are our responsibility.
But what of circumstances truly beyond our control … or even the consequences of our own mistakes? What happens when we are left destitute by fate or failure?
In those tragic scenarios, for good or for ill, for right or for wrong, we are not alone. In a society that offers a very elaborate (often quite unconstitutional) “safety net” of public services and private charities, there really is no reason that any individual should have to live in the open, on an urban street, with no alternatives – unless they do so by choice or because they literally lack the capacity to conceive of a different way.
There, I’m saying it: Most people who are homeless are homeless because there is something very wrong with them. They may be survivors, but they aren’t copers. They may adapt to adversity, but they don’t overcome it. They simply have learned how to tread water no matter how deep or tragic the sea.
Reality is different. You are not homeless … because you refuse to be. Acknowledging this does not make you a bad person, any more than seeing the homeless for the threat they represent makes you a hateful, uncaring, arrogant hypocrite.
Quite the contrary: understanding these facts simply makes you a realist.