Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

A Problem That Won't Go Away This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
   A Problem that Won't Go Away

by B. H., Braintree, MA

"It's their own fault." "They're just a bunch of drunks." "Why should I help them?" "They deserve to be on the street." What does the word homeless mean to you? What visions do you see when the words vagabond, bum, and hobo enter your head? You probably have the picture of middle-aged, mentally-ill, alcoholic dregs of society. Not to say that isn't the case in some circumstances, but that is nothing more than a cruel, unfounded stereotype of unfortunate individuals who scare us away from doing something about it.

Herbert Hoover's words from his inauguration address that I learned in last year's history class ring in my ears. He told America that we as a country were nearer to the abolition of poverty than ever before and soon it would be gone. Seventy years ago it's amazing anyone could say such nonsense. We know today for sure he was very wrong.

I have just returned from serving dinner at Father Bill's Place, a homeless shelter in Quincy, a suburb of Boston. I always said I would volunteer but it took the head of my youth group to get me to do it. I knew that the poor victims weren't the stereotypical bums, but I really didn't know what to expect. And as I entered I saw that they were much like anyone else. This might have been a crowd in a bowling alley, or a supermarket. Here were normal, all-American human beings with just one difference: they didn't have the cozy utopian bliss we call "the daily grind."

It's easy to feel guilty. I'm sitting here in my bedroom typing on my computer, listening to U2 on my CD player and I, like many others, not only take for granted, but often scorn my life. There are many "wake-up calls" that can make you realize how lucky you are. Personally, I am very grateful for all I have, but I admit that I often fail to realize how lucky I am. As I surveyed the masses from the kitchen window I saw more that they were just like you and me. A man 20 feet away had the same flannel shirt I was wearing. At another table I overheard a political discussion. Both these disprove people's idea of the dirty, uneducated slobs we pour tax dollars in the bureaucratic piggy-bank for.

I gazed into each face, each told a story; the young couple who fell on hard times, the veteran who was put on the street for the country he fought for, the former Coast Guard man with his shirt that read "USCG" and the tattoo to match. Before I served the food, I heard the story about a woman, master's degree and all, who had worked for a major computer company, had seen the world, who then found herself laid off and in the shelter in a short period of time.

For those who think these men AND women are rude, ungrateful and hostile individuals, think again. Almost each and every one thanked me as I brought them their food, all of them were happy to see me, many could carry a good conversation, many had a sense of humor. Are you shocked that these are actual human beings? You might be; I'm not surprised.

My purpose in this article is not to make you angry, or insatiably guilty. I hope that it's a wake-up call. It doesn't matter how rich or poor you are, where you come from, if you have a diploma on the wall, or if your family has a two-car garage with high-paying jobs and all; NONE OF IT MEANS ANYTHING TO FATE! Indirectly or directly we are ALL exposed to and affected by homelessness. Not only will it not go away, it will only get worse if the apathy we display continues to pervade. We all can't devote our time to the cause (and there are many other causes that need support), but anything helps. I'm not going to leave school every day and go to help, but once a month I'm going to help in some way. I'm not asking for recognition, all I'm asking is that in whatever way we can, we reach out and do something. Give to a can drive, donate time, write a check; nothing major at all. We all have so much and it is hard to put ourselves in their shoes. Fear is a natural reaction, and it's easier to turn away than to lend a hand. God knows, our own lives aren't exactly a cakewalk either. However, try to envision yourself in the cold of winter, wearing a secondhand jacket and covered in this very paper you're reading for warmth; that's fear ... that's reality.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback