Most of you probably did not watch "48 Hours" January 18. I did, by accident, and I am very glad that I did.
I was flipping channels as I do every night, when I came across a sorrowful sight: homeless men and women, laying near the wall of a busy Manhattan train station. Dan Rather appeared and said that during the next hour, reporters would be talking to the homeless, and those who lived around them. They interviewed numerous people; split into three categories: the homeless; those who helped them; and those who did not.
One woman was a mother who commuted everyday and used the New York public train system. During the winter months, the number of homeless living in the station increased and this woman did not like it. She claimed that most of the homeless people were very able-bodied and could obtain a good job, but they chose not to. She obviously does not understand that no one can acquire a job without a home address. This woman also said that most of the homeless could be put in shelters, but they would rather live on the streets. But many shelters across the country are being closed because of a shortage of funds.
Another woman lived across the street from a park in New York that was occupied by homeless people. Many had "moved in" and built tents in the park and the citizens living around the park saw it as a disgrace that they could no longer walk through it and call it a "park." This woman said that she just wanted the park back. I saw all of the homeless in that park have their tents burned down, and be kicked out of a public place. They all had to part with their valuables, those that they had, and were forced to live on city street and alleys.
Another mother and son did a lot to help the homeless. The mother cared for the homeless by giving them a hot breakfast in the morning and giving them money to eat a decent lunch and dinner. Her fifteen year old son spent one snowy Friday night giving out sandwiches to the homeless in Manhattan.
One reporter went along with a homeless person to the welfare office. It took the man three days to just fill out the proper applications. The complete process took six days. He met with a welfare lawyer who guaranteed the man welfare. The reporter spoke with the lawyer and he said that the process is so long because the nation is not providing enough money to provide welfare to everyone who applies. He also said that it is almost like the nation does not want to help the homeless.
What is this nation coming to? Why are some people so caught up in themselves that they are ignoring the homeless? Do we just want to sit back and watch the numbers grow larger and larger? For those of you who want the homeless to have a place to live, and we all should, then do something. After watching this program, I have given serious consideration to becoming a welfare lawyer for the homeless. The homeless is large part of our society. We must do something - anything - to end it now. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.