Thursday, September 30, 2010

Criminals, right?

Response to a bone-chilling video shot in OUR community- check it out.

As a fellow activist and concerned citizen of Atlanta, I speak on behalf of some of the efforts Atlanta offers homeless individuals. Though the resources might be scare and on a smaller scale, the help is here. People like Sylvester do indeed have a large challenge at hand after serving time in prison. Their backgrounds are shot, their knowledge of society is not up to date and their lifestyle is not parallel with the vast majority of Atlanta's lifestyle. Re-entry into society after serving time is definitely a large reason people become homeless. Imagine being inside a building for several months, maybe years, at a time. What is changing in the world outside? What are you missing out on? There are some people who don’t even know what a cell phone is, what a computer is or what an ATM machine is. How are they supposed to just leave prison/jail and be expected to assimilate and conform? There is no humanly possible way of doing so. This cause is frowned upon by human kind: we are not a very forgiving race and we expect people who make a mistake to pay severe, sometimes inappropriate consequences. When they’ve done their time, their punishment might be over in the eyes of society, but to them, their stigmatized background will remain a lifetime of punishment.

I was homeless for about two weeks of my life when I was 11 years old, and even though I was in a hotel and not the streets, my lack of a stable home contributed to my depression. I echo Sylvester’s thought about suicide. It’s difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel when the world is spinning around you and all you are doing is watching helplessly, passively and sadly.

His calm, subdued and passionate eyes reassured me that he was genuine in his desire to belong in society with everyone else. He has been more than active in seeking employment but has hit all the roadblocks that everyone else leaving prison have. It’s unfortunate that in America people are judged by those kinds of things. Whatever happened to having a second chance? Even a third or a fourth chance ought to be merited depending on circumstances. I’ve got to say that some blame lies in Sylvester, but mostly, society. Closing doors to a fellow human out of preconceived judgments is a fault in American culture and ought to be resurrected before we kill off our own kind.