On a recent trip to New Orleans, my family decided to make a late night run to Cafe Du Monde for some cafe’ au lait and beignets. As we walked through the French Quarter, I noticed numerous homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk. They blended in with the evening ambiance of tourists, revelers, darkness, and homelessness.
In most major cities, the homeless are up front and center. I’ve seen them a couple of blocks from Bush Stadium in St. Louis, downtown Chicago across from the Chicago Tribune, outside high dollar convention hotels in Cleveland.
Yet, Jackson can’t quite come to grips with the homeless. It bugs downtown developers that the homeless spend the night in Smith Park. I understand that. But I also understand that the homeless aren’t going away.
Last year while at a conference in New Orleans, I snapped a picture of some homeless people camped out under a bridge in broad daylight. Sort of surprised me they’d be out in the open.
At Gateway, we deal with homelessness one person at a time. If we can end homelessness for one person, we’ve changed that person’s life.
Truth is, a significant number of the homeless population won’t come to a shelter. And not everybody who comes to a shelter is homeless. We feed a good number of people who have a place to stay but live at or below the poverty line. The meal they get in our kitchen is the best meal they’ll have all day. And we’re proud to feed them.
It sort of convicted me that I walked past homeless people in New Orleans on the way to eat sugar-coated pastries. Such is the world in which we live. We so easily tune out the human misery before us on our way to something more immediately important.
Don’t be naive. Not everybody standing on a street corner holding a sign is seeking to work for food. But we must guard against apathy toward human beings not just like us.