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Essay/Term paper: How can we help the homeless and should we?: searching for a solution

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Narrative Essays

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How Can We Help the Homeless and Should We?: Searching for a Solution


Just a few months ago I was with my friends Mike and Kim and we had been
walking around having a great time in the city. We then exited a store and Kim
said something under her breath like, "Oh, no," when I looked in the same
direction to find a middle aged man with a drunken stare to him. She knew this
man as "the town drunk" and he had been homeless for years. He asked us for the
time and we replied, but he didn't just stop with that and followed us across
the street talking up a storm. He was telling his whole life story in the
fifteen minutes we stood there: he talked about how he grew up living poor with
his family and how he wanted to be educated and go through college to get a good
job so he could live well. But he said his parents just didn't have the money
and it was impossible. I felt threatened as did Mike and Kim from the drunken
gestures of this man and thought to myself, if this man wanted to make something
of his life, I mean if he really wanted to, he would try harder and somehow do
wh at he wanted. We tried to leave as soon as possible.
But then I began reading these essays about the homeless and it started
to change my mind. The essay "Virginia's Trap" by Peter Marin especially
effected me because of the way it portrays the young woman that has nothing
going for her and almost everything against her. I though about this and decided
I had misunderstood the whole plight of this population and thought there must
be a better way to help these unfortunate people. How should we help the
homeless and should we try even though they may not help themselves? I figure
that is the most important question that needs to be answered if anything is to
be done.
Of the essays I analyzed Awalt's "Brother Don't Spare a Dime" was the
one essay that went against the idea of helping the homeless because the author
thinks it's their own fault for being the way they are. The other two essays are
easier on the homeless and want to lend a helping hand. In "Address Unknown:
Homeless in Contemporary America" James Wright thinks that helping the homeless
by giving them more benefits that they will be more prosperous. Peter Marin has
the same idea in "Virginia's Trap" where the young woman is in need of just a
little bit more money to stay the way she is in a home but doesn't receive
enough. While Awalt's narrow view of homeless people gives him the idea that all
should not be helped in anyway, Wright and Marin go towards the idea of helping
the people because they have already had a rough life and do in fact need this
help to go anywhere in life.
Awalt's statement that homeless people are a "waste of time" is a very
general statement in the least. Throughout his essay he only mentioned working
with one homeless person trying to help him through a detoxification program.
This person failed the procedure and left to go back to the streets and drink
again. (Awalt 239) Just because this one person didn't have the endurance to
undergo such an operation doesn't mean others wouldn't. What we need to have is
a more "hands on" program with these homeless people to give them the attention
that they need so that a majority of the people will not end up like this but
eventually in their own homes.
The opposite view is shared by Wright and Marin in their more lengthy
and detailed essays. Wright starts out saying that not all homeless are the same
and should not all be treated the same. He states there are different classes of
homeless people and there are the worthy and unworthy homeless, meaning that
only some deserve to remain this way because they don't try to live otherwise.
These small amount of people, about five percent, don't deserve the time and
money spent on trying to get them off the streets but the only way to find out
if they don't is to try at least once with them. If it doesn't work out that's a
small amount of effort wasted but if it does work it is a grand success and
another homeless person is off the street. Marin has the same view with
"Virginia's Trap" adding a great deal of sympathy for the main character in the
story by telling it from her point of view. Virginia is also in a different
class of homelessness, the subset of the poverty that is marginally housed. She
is "trapped" in between housing and none at all because of her poor background
and problems with low income. The author even tries to help Virginia stay in her
house at the time but it all collapses financially on her again. (Marin 250)
That is why benefits for people who are actually trying to get back on their
feet should be raised according to their situation.
I believe that Awalt's view of the homeless is a narrow-minded, stubborn
one and that Wright and Marin should at least try to help these people and give
them the benefit of the doubt. I realized that I was wrong from my first
interpretation of the middle aged man I met in the city and that it is hard for
him to have a chance in this world without the proper money and help to back him
up. In some cases the homeless may not deserve all the help we try to give them
but if we are to destroy this ongoing problem we have to: as Wright states, "The
federal government must massively intervene in the private housing market, to
halt the loss of additional low-income units and to underwrite the construction
of many more; and benefits paid to the welfare-dependent population must
double." (Wright 265) I believe that this is a very good idea along with the
increased effort of individuals that try to help these homeless and that it
could seriously help the problem.

 

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