By Jim Thomas
Getting through the project of setting up a Housing Navigation Center was brutal. I knew there would be pushback, but the intensity of the emotional outcry was immense. While I recognized that the opposition was fearful of what might happen, many of them stooped to vilifying the homeless as violent predatory criminals. Working with the homeless for over 10 years, I have never met anyone who gave me cause to be worried, so hearing how some people think of our homeless neighbors was heartbreaking.
If nothing else, this project made me even more sensitive to the plight of the homeless. Last Friday, I went to Kentucky Fried Chicken to get dinner for my family because it was too hot to cook. When I got there, there was a homeless person laying on the sidewalk nearby. As I passed him, I said hello and asked how he was doing. He didn’t respond. Once inside, I decided that I would add to my order a two-piece meal for him. When I came out, he was gone. Then I remembered the lady who takes her cart and sets up a lean-to by Denny’s on Mowry (and when rousted, she will set up across the street, or around the corner). I decided to see if she was there and give her the meal. I have been meaning to stop by to say hello, and now was my chance. I found her across the street with two other homeless people. I apologized to them for not bringing more food, but they seemed happy that I brought something for at least one of them. It was apparent that I wasn’t the only person to bring food (which lifted my spirits).
Despite not bringing enough food for all three, they were friendly and appreciative. After bidding them farewell and setting forth for home, I hoped that the people that were passing by had noticed me (or anyone who brought food and fellowship). I hoped that I was a role model to the onlookers.
My daughter, when she was attending Culinary Academy in San Francisco some time ago, she had to walk past several homeless people to get to class. She would always smile and say hello. She says she got that from me. I hadn’t realized how much influence my casual actions towards the homeless shaped her perspective, and I came to realize how powerful it is to be a role-model. I now believe giving food to this homeless woman will have a positive impact on those who witnessed it. What a wonderful and positive way to affect change in attitudes this small action has become. Still, that’s all about M.E., so how about we make it all about you?