Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Take Advantage!

Every time I walk or drive through Atlanta it breaks my heart. I hate to see the homeless people on the streets, sleeping where ever they can and hanging out wasting their lives away. It’s unbearable to watch and I can’t imagine how unbearable it is to live like that.

When they are given an opportunity to receive shelter and comfort for a minimum of one night, how come they don’t accept? I mean, if I was sleeping on concrete I’d totally want a bed for at least one night with running water and other regular ‘needs’.

Well, it’s just not that simple, of course! The shelters in Atlanta (for men, at least) are so completely difficult to live in that sometimes the streets remain a significantly better option. That’s embarrassing, Atlanta. Take, for example, one of the major men’s shelters in Atlanta- Peachtree & Pine. Men can stay there as long as they like. However, every instance I have spoken with someone who stayed there, they have had nothing but regrets, complaints, and problems. One gentleman, whom may I add, is successfully contributing to society again, dealt with serious trauma while he stayed there. He almost died because of how unhealthy it was there. It is a breeding ground for disease, and it’s located right next to Georgia State University. This man, who so graciously shared his story with me, expanded on the conditions in the shelter. There was never any consistency in the resources provided, and the men there treat each other horribly. I shudder when I imagine someone so humbled living in a shelter like this. I mean, he was TWO HOURS away from DYING. People are DYING- because living conditions are THAT bad. No wonder more people would rather live on Peachtree Street. I would too. So what can be done to fix the problems?

I wish I could answer that. However, I do see some amazing contributions to resurrecting the situation. I have met some extraordinary people where I work and I am so touched by all the work they do to aid the homeless. For example, there is a resource fair where homeless people can get shelter, health check-ups, and connect with staffing agencies. They are given a lot of essential tools to get back on track. Unfortunately, not a whole lot of people take advantage of what’s being offered. However, those who do truly deserve every success they earn. Last week, I was interviewing all the homeless individuals coming in- evaluating what services they needed and anything else I could tell about them. All of them walk in and tell me they need housing. One of the questions I have to ask is whether or not they have an income (yes- some homeless people do indeed have an income!) and if they don’t if they are planning on getting one in order to secure housing. Most of them tell me no- they don’t want to work, they just want housing. However, one gentleman, sweet as could be, sat down and instantly told me he wants a job. He told me he doesn’t mind staying out on the streets until he could afford a place. I told him he was the first person who had EVER said that to me! He was surprised- because his logic was that income provided housing. Imagine….!!

Anyway, I hate how sad it is to watch these people cope with this ridiculous Atlanta heat. It truly brings tears to my eyes to imagine how horribly hot it is for them. Those who utilize the vast amount of resources Atlanta DOES have to offer are helping themselves in so many ways. Of course, it takes work from everyone involved, but it is possible to end homelessness. It will happen in my lifetime- I have such faith in every organization and agency in Atlanta- they are all so incredible.