SOME Help to the Homeless
Every year approximately 2.3 to 3.5 million people go homeless in the United States of America. Twelve million adults in the US were homeless in the year 2001, or are still currently without a permanent home (“Homelessness in the U.S.”). How does this happen in “the land of opportunity?” We think of ourselves as one of the greatest nations in the world, yet citizens are living a life of poverty, often without food, clothing, and shelter. When most people think of fighting homelessness, they think of providing medical assistance, showers, and counseling services for those who suffer mental illness, trauma, and substance abuse. Although these necessities are imperative in helping a significant portion of the homeless, they do not eliminate the problem of homelessness because they fail to focus on the structural obstacles, such as income inequality among different social classes and the lack of low-income housing. These impediments are at the very core of the issue. The Washington D.C. based organization So Others Might Eat (SOME) is a highly successful advocate for the eradication of homelessness in its attention to individual problems, such as illness and abuse; however, the organization fails to provide a permanent solution to the problem of homelessness because it does not fully overcome the structural causes of this social crisis.
Homeless scholar Talmadge Wright explains that the homeless are victims of the “previously established notions” that influential members of society bestow on the less fortunate (5). Persuasive officials, mass media, and people of the upper class have the power to influence the community into accepting certain characteristics as normal. When a person fails to fit the preconceived idea of what is normal with in a society, such as having proper medical care, personal hygiene, and acceptable behavioral patters, people do not consider him as part of their community (Wright 2). Society labels him with stereotypes, such as “other” and “deviant,” often refusing to serve or to be in close proximity to this homeless person (Wright 7). Such treatment destroys a person’s dignity and self-respect. SOME is a unique organization, for it not only provides the needy with food, clothing, and shelter, but the volunteer group also offers medical, dental, personal hygiene, and counseling services (Foundation). With this type of attention, the homeless can escape the negative labels that society forces on them because they do not appear to be homeless. By offering these special personal services, SOME instills a sense of personal dignity in a homeless person.
The lack of dignity that these individuals feel is a direct effect of society’s disrespect for the lower class. The stereotypes of the homeless conceived by upper social classes, cause the lower class to lose any respectable role they may have in society. A homeless man in Oberlin, Ohio says,...