Mother Teresa – “Suffering,” A Gift for God (1975).
If sometimes our poor people have had to die of starvation, it is not that God didn’t care for them, but because you and I didn’t give, were not an instrument of love in the hands of God, to give them that bread, to give them that clothing; because we did not recognize him, when once more Christ came in distressing disguise, in the hungry man, in the lonely man, in the homeless child, and seeking for shelter.
The temperature was ten below zero. The sign on the door said at ten degrees above zero, or 22 below freezing, the emergency shelter would live up to it’s name and become a ‘warming center’. Despite this at seven that evening, about one hundred fifty people were standing outside the closed metal door waiting to get inside for warmth, dinner and a place to sleep afterwards. There was a line of women, the first to be able to go inside, so much for equality of the sexes, followed by a large group of men huddled around them near the door. Families were let inside as soon as they arrived, even if instead of being children, it was merely a man and wife or sons or daughters of late teen years. After families and women men were let in alphabetically. It would take an over an hour to let everyone in. By that time, people put outside at six that evening would have been outside in extremely low temperatures trying to survive the cold for at least two hours.
Admiral Nano imagine a ‘normal’ person locked outside their home from six this evening till a locksmith came and got your door opened at eight o’clock. How miserable would that home-owner feel? Would they be happy that it would take that long to get inside their home waiting for the locksmith to arrive? Consider leaving your pet poodle outside during that time and your neighbor noticed it. What do you think might happen if your neighbor called the local police or animal society and they came over and found your dog outside for two hours in temperature that could kill or was considered cruel punishment for a pet? What did society do to people like that? Would your pet be taken away? Would you be charged with a crime? Would you face a large fine or possible jail time? You wouldn’t treat a dog like that, but homeless people are treated like that, even by the shelter staff.
If you are poor or homeless society doesn’t mind if you are treated like this. If you live in a homeless shelter where you have been systematically dehumanized and lost your self-esteem to the point you are treated like a child and have to ask permission for everything you do as if you’re a prison convict, then you are abused like this. You are treated worse than an animal. An animal has better ‘rights’ than a homeless person.
Nano stood in the at the edge of the waiting crowd in shelter’s weak lights, hands in pockets, layered in clothing like those around him. While homeless folks shivered in the bone-freezing cold he gazed up into the overcast sky and observed the large snowflakes falling upon the poor and hungry. The snow swirled in a gusting wind and laid a covering upon the shoulders of all. The homeless shuffled and mumbled, helpless to change this situation. Sometimes they vehemently gave opinions to each other about the rationale of being out in this weather at this time of the night in a church run charity where compassion, kindness and the Christian spirit were the often used buzzwords. You could often see those terms used on the road sign near the street where presently cars plowed through the growing snow and freezing slush.
“Don’t they know how cold it is out here?” said ‘Clodhopper’ Clyde Cousins. Clyde had been a Illinois farmer till a bank took his farm of three generations away from him.
“They know”, said ”Choo Choo’ Joe. “They just don’t give a damn. In fact if a few of us perished they’d avoid the blame by telling us they had to clean the floors first before they could let us come in and undo it with our wet shoes, coats and the melting snow on us.”
“Dat surely be da trut. Yessir, dat da way it be.” ‘Shower Cap’ John Backwall laid drunkenly against the brick wall of the building, looking down at his wet feet with his socks showing through the holes in his tennis shoes. “Yeah, youse got it rights, we be just nobody to dem. We be dogs. Likes you can’t do dis to a dog, but we be homeless y’know. Dey be staff, inside nice n’warm. Dey ain’t cleaning shit dose motherfuckers.”
Choo Choo Joe shrugged his shoulders and looked over at Clodhopper. “You been here a long time Clod, why they treating us this way?”
“Because we’re homeless and we can’t sue the bastards. Besides, who cares about homeless? We going to go find a lawyer to represent us? I don’t think so. There’s no money in it for a lawyer.”
“It’s not right” said Choo Choo. “We’re humans still. We might have drunks and idiots here, but we didn’t give away our rights to be treated decently. I can’t even think of a city official who would care to check on this place. It already violates morality if not building codes of health, safety and capacity. I mean, does the public even know this place used to be a nasty city incinerator. We live in an incinerator man.”
Before Clodhopper could respond, Shower Cap interjected. “We jus losers and scum. Society no care. Chu’ches dat runnin dis place don wanna t’know if we be here in da cold. If we dead, no one of those volunteer motherfuckers comin to da funeral. Dey not be askin why da man froze outside da shelter. We be jus trow-away people. We not humans, we not real Christins. We be scum dogs.”
No one mumbled for a moment or two, then someone in the crowd yelled, “Open the doors you assholes. We’re freezing out here.”
Which was followed by a woman shouting, “I bet you wouldn’t let your family stand out here for this long you.”
Nano watched. They were right these bums. If you’re poor and didn’t own a home for whatever reason, you didn’t qualify for ‘human rights’. That was a term that supposedly meant the decent morality of humanity. It also implied equal treatment with respect according to good standards. In fact, there was no truth in human equality that Nano had observed between those who had and those who had not. You got as much respect as you had the ability to enforce on others.
Admittedly, a good deal of the problems at the shelter stemmed from the lack of personal responsibility the ‘guests’ took upon themselves for improper and self-destructive behavior. However, the manifold problems the homeless brought with them was much magnified by the philosophically unsound principles of the Aurora shelter and the unskilled and often uncaring nature of the staff. If this line of people were cats and dogs left in the dangerous temperatures to fend for themselves, the staff would be in jail now and facing stiff fines.
For tonight it was a matter of surviving the elements of nature for the homeless. Tomorrow would also be a matter of survival. Homeless people would be in hospitals from colds, pneumonia and influenza, and frostbite; costing Aurora tens of thousands of dollars in health care. It was the cost society inflicted upon itself for not dealing effectively and compassionately with the homeless. It was poor planning and understanding of the the problem. In the meantime, after the homeless were finally inside from the terrible weather, they would be served by this christian charity noodles with tomato sauce, apple sauce, a bread roll and maybe some milk.
- Hungary: Criminalizing Hungary’s Homeless (ionglobaltrends.com)
- YouthLink Helping Homeless Youth Find Direction At Life’s Crossroads (minnesota.cbslocal.com)
- Move the Homeless Along? (bissellcentre.org)
- Councilman: City lacks compassion (toledoblade.com)
- ‘Night Under the Stars’ turns the spotlight on homeless (thehindu.com)
- Homeless shelters prepare for worst in nation’s capital. (dailypaul.com)
- Not Bad (or The Big Lie) (admiralnano.wordpress.com)