Nailing the Root of Homelessness

I’ve spent nearly 2 months at a county shelter as a homeless guest.  I’ve reached this state by having consciously defied the societal rule of maximization of self-interests at any cost. The vast majority of my fellow homeless guests arrived at the same location as nonconformists as well.  However, their path is thoroughly opposite from mine.  Their lack of awareness is what made them lose control over their lives.

Based on my privilege of close proximity to a number of homeless individuals, I’ve gathered that the state of homelessness turns out to be the physical manifestation of all the components for the adulthood they initially lacked, at no fault of their own.

The commonality among these people was the lack of the reliable authority during their childhood. Their parents were absent, abusive, controlling, or indifferent, all of which didn’t allow the chance for the affected children to learn how to build integrity with others.  In other words, many of the fellow homeless individuals have infantile mentality frozen in adult bodies.  That imbalance is the root of homelessness.

How does this factor play out among the homeless individuals?

Firstly, it is customary for them to be inconsistent between words and actions.  These people don’t take their promises with others seriously.  They exaggerate their capabilities to the extent of being judged as liars after a brief conversation.  Most of all, these individuals don’t have the sense of consequences out of such conducts.

Secondly, constructive criticism is a foreign concept among my fellow homeless guests.  They are either dejected or defensive upon facing it.  And, I’ve discovered that this trait speaks to the class difference.

For example, a young woman at the shelter was excited about multiple job prospects as she submitted her resume already.  When she asked me to review it, she expected me to compliment it, which I figured out belatedly.  Instead, I pinpointed the clutter and redundancy in her resume.  I offered to work with her again after her revising such. She never brought this subject up again.  As I suspected, all the job possibilities she was so proud of never materialized.

She was accustomed to being patronized by her teachers in the public school of a working class neighborhood.  This tactic makes children be satisfied with minimal accomplishments.  The excess of praise doesn’t compel many of these youngsters to challenge themselves.  In the long run, they are perpetuating the societal expectation of making very little of themselves, out of this environment.  She was the crystallization of this scenario.

Thirdly, introspection isn’t in the dictionary for my fellow homeless guests.  If one grew up without the authority figure who could examine his or her thought process regularly and rigorously, he or she assumed to be right from the young age.  In the absence of any rationale in one’s mind, it is filled with opinions.  The only way he or she finds security in them is through the crowd mentality, which is so often dangerous or wrong in reality.

And, this kind of tendency leaves no room for spiritual growth that mandates the discipline of looking inward as the prerequisite.  Those without it in their daily regimen never learn to be responsible for their own actions.  And, these people never know how to give their best efforts in any endeavor by the divine standard.  Therefore, it is virtually impossible to expect the divine blessing in their lives, which they desperately need more than anything to turn their lives around.

All in all, all of these attributes, hard-wired by the sheer force of the environment, ended up leaving the sorry impression of them as unreliable.  Marginalization by the secular society was the inevitable consequence.  The government is the only savior for the homeless.

Sadly, what it offers them is the cosmetic change for a temporary duration.  Every homeless individual is rushed to leave the shelter, since it should be a shame for an adult to be so materially deprived.  Each homeless guest may locate a place with a financial subsidy, regardless of how much and however long that may be.  All it does is to isolate each one with his or her unchecked behavior, which will sooner or later hamper his or her adulthood, once again. That is how one becomes a chronic homeless person.

I’ve heard from social workers that the department of labor acts as the liaison for the homeless in the private sector for a temporary employment.  This program is mostly for unskilled labor jobs, with a hope of leading to permanent placements. If all of the traits mentioned above were on a full display in the work place, the homeless individuals would have only confirmed why they had been unemployed.  That is why they’ve been consistently fired right after the government subsidy for wages ends.  In turn, the department of labor has been pursuing a futile endeavor with such folks.

What would be the right remedy for the homeless?

Instead of instilling shame for having lost everything, the state of homelessness should be treated as a chance to reboot life from a clean slate.  To do so, what the homeless individuals need is the mental transformation above all else.  They need to compensate for the emotional and mental grades they had skipped during their childhood, in the expedited manner.  They need to learn to be accountable for themselves in every possible way.

Why should the society be responsible for that kind of investment in marginal members of the society?

Things were done and undone to misguide their lives when they were powerless.  If the system treats them as its liabilities, it permits the rest of the society to do the same or even worse.

What is the upside of making a greater commitment to this constituent?

An athletic coach once told me that it was so much easier to instill the proper discipline in those without any foundation than those with bad habits.  Such often took so much more effort and time to eliminate from an athlete, according to this trainer.  I presume that process is no different in other aspects of human life.

There are plenty of people in reality who have just as much or even greater disparity between mental and physical maturity as the homeless individuals.  The difference between these two groups, however, is that most people in reality have learned how to exploit others for one’s survival or livelihood from their most trusted authorities (that is what prevents people from questioning the nature of vice).

Therefore, even if one can’t on his or her own, he or she still knows how to deliver his or her share of duty by the societal standard.  Many of my fellow homeless individuals are either ignorant or poorly trained in this criterion.  All they care about is their instant gratification, and act accordingly by this yardstick.

If these people are oriented to work not only for their own interests but of others at the same time, their guiding principle ends up as virtue.  Once equipped with this idea, their way of conducts will be more desirable than those who are vice-oriented in the rest of the society.  Serving the virtue is so much more motivating and worthwhile, which can raise the efficiency and productivity of each person.

If the society can indeed turn the homeless individuals, or other similarly deprived citizens, as functional ones, how can it protect them against the existing societal rule?   That is where the majority of Americans needs to ponder.

The United States has no boundary against the individual success.  For nearly a century, about 40% of this country’s wealth has been held by the top 1% of the population.  That means that 99% of the population isn’t very good at this endeavor to begin with, and isn’t likely to improve over time, either.

And, when the so-called financial professionals chased after the rarefied status by exercising the economic rule of maximizing profits at any cost, these individuals yielded the contrary results.  These people inflicted harm on their firms with huge losses as well as the rest of American society by denigrating its fabric.  In fact, this country hasn’t fully recovered from the financial crisis of 2008.  Even if ordinary Americans are given the equal chance of the same endeavor, they won’t do any better, based on the repeated precedence.

What is amiss in this situation?  The plutocrats’ gigantic wealth and our societal rule may not have anything to do with each other.  We may just assume that these two are correlated, because of what the U.S. Constitution permits.

In fact, they aren’t related.  Harvard Business School case studies, which are the common curriculum materials for leading American business schools, consistently prove this irony of truth.  Unfortunately, most MBAs walk away with the economic rule, without the historical evidences that demonstrate how harmful it is to conform to such.

The majority of the population has to explore this quandary with American plutocrats. Our economic rule isn’t the recipe for the latter’s wealth, but the source of calamity for the public and our system.  This fact gives both the top 1% and the rest of the population to question the existing principle.  Why do we keep something that equally penalizes those who are active and passive about exercising this rule?

If the United States can arrive at that conceptual inquiry, this country can initiate the paradigm shift toward the ideal.  When every member of the society works toward this goal where the virtue thrives, that is the ultimate protection our system can offer for everyone, all the way down to the homeless.



Author: Sydnee Lee

Freel-lance writer since 1995. Graduated from Princeton University with A.B. in Economics in 1986. Earned an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1990. Business experience from the entire spectrum of the financial world including TIAA-CREF, Citicorp, and Morgan Stanley. Resigned as Vice President at Morgan Stanley in 1995. Spent last 22 years examining the U.S. system and disseminating the truths, and risked everything for this pursuit so far.

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