January 12, 2009
By Elizabeth Vogt, Cypress, TX

The issue of preventing homelessness and the proper treatment of the homeless is a controversial topic that is very close to my heart. Of all the philanthropic activities I have ever participated in, volunteering at homeless shelters has had the most profound impact on me. There is no greater feeling than helping someone firsthand and seeing the joy on their faces after simply smiling at them. These people are just like everyone else and deserve to be treated as such. At one shelter in particular, Open Door Mission, a man named Charles helped me realize how these people can change and do not all deserve to be regarded as “lepers”.

While chopping celery in the shelter’s kitchen, Charles openly began to explain his whole life story immediately after we introduced ourselves. He told me the hardships and struggles he faced living on the street, including a detailed account of his terrible addictions acquired as a result of his environment. He also told me how he turned his life around by finding Christ and following his feet to Open Door Mission, which I found to be extremely remarkable after hearing the gruesome stories of his past life.

After my encounter with Charles, the scales fell from my eyes and my entire perspective of the homeless changed. I believe that people, no matter how awful they may be, can turn themselves around. I believe that mankind is essentially good and can change their ways when they have the proper motivation to do so. I believe in helping others when they cannot help themselves. Most of all, I believe in the power of love. These people crave love and adoration because compassion shown by others is what is keeping them alive. They should not be scoffed at for their lack of propriety or stereotypically judged. In today’s society, there are many honest people trying to improve their lives, to get out of the hole the have been trapped in. They depend on the care and support of those around them. Without this encouragement, they can easily be sucked back into that hole of impoverishment.

My call to the world is to help those people, not condemn them. They are just as human as everyone else and make mistakes just as we do. Put yourself in their shoes. Volunteer at a shelter. Sponsor a child living in poverty overseas. Maybe then society will know how deserving of our acceptance these people really are.

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