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.

 

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Church vs. the Marginalized

In the homeless shelter where I’ve been for over a month, church is an integral component of how the place runs on a daily basis.  A nonprofit organization affiliated with a local church assigns beds, monitors housing and welfare resources for the homeless guests, and maintains the physical facility.

Our meals are outsourced.  Breakfast and lunch are provided from the nearby jail.  Dinner is donated by the network of churches across our county.  It is amazing how the nonprofit organization reaches a variety of denominations to prepare, deliver and serve the dinner to over 100 individuals per night.  Some churches volunteer more often than others, on a regular basis.

Regardless of how the dinner turns out to be, it is definitely the ritual that the homeless, both from the shelter and the outside, look forward to each day.  I’ve noticed that church volunteers actually enjoy the experience more than we do.  The pride is quite apparent in each believer for acting on what he or she has been indoctrinated, which most church-goers don’t necessarily follow through in reality.

As a Christian and an ethnic minority, I couldn’t help myself paying attention to which denomination did indeed serve the homeless better than others.  Judging by the name of the church introduced each evening, it is the Catholic Church that reigns in this criterion, especially of White-American congregations.

While I admired the power of Catholic Church to compel its followers with such a discipline to this day, I also wondered what made this branch of Christianity remain so loyal to this onerous task.

After pondering over weeks, I’ve realized that Catholic Church is the originator of helping the poor and needy.  Feeding the homeless stems from this concept.  If this principle were to thrive among the believers, the inventor of this idea had to be most vigilant with the practice.

Does that make Catholic Church better practitioners of Christianity?

The evidence is quite the contrary.  And, helping the poor and needy is the Catholic Church’s tradition, not of the Bible.  If you are in doubt, you should explore the scripture yourself.

In John 21:15-17 of the New Testament, Peter was commanded by Jesus to feed the latter’s sheep.  Biblical scholars interpret such as feeding the Word of God.  Shouldn’t that start with solving the physical hunger first?

To answer that question, we need to explore the goal of feeding the Word of God.  What Christ ultimately offered was belonging to God, to those who were alienated by the cultural or societal standards.  He didn’t embrace the poor and needy only.  He did all kinds of people regardless of their background, thereby striving for spiritual equality.

If one were to be secure by belonging to God, sustenance alone won’t accomplish that task. So many times, the homeless arrive at the shelter with their broken spirits, which disable their sense of self-worth.   If so, recovering such to the extent where a homeless person can function on his or her own mandates quite a process.

Under this premise, satisfying the physical hunger is the bare minimum that the believers end up offering to the homeless.  And, this service is the compensation for having neglected the former’s surroundings all along.  Parishioners might satisfy their pastors or church elders with this particular kind of volunteerism.  However, it has no relevance to God whatsoever.  He responds to each of our best efforts serving his goal, based on his standard only.  Anything less than that faces nothing but the divine indifference.

Then, the question is why the Catholic Church, which has the longest history of Christianity, practices it in the erroneous manner to this day.

The answer lies with how the Catholic Church has managed itself for its relevance and livelihood since the ancient period.  The Church always co-opted with the rulers of various dynasties, which joined the rank of the entrenched as well.  When the Church looked out for its self-interests in this manner, the institution could only give little to the underprivileged.  In short, the Catholic Church has always been pragmatic with its own survival, which is furthest from laying down one’s life for fellow human-beings (John 15:13).

The conceptual betrayal has to do with ignoring the unique element of Christianity. Compared to other religions that offer the dogma only, Christianity accompanies miracles as well.  They reserve the room for God to aid those who observe all the divine rules but may fall short of achieving the ultimate result by his standard.  And, a miracle is entirely God’s judgment call, which may happen only in extraordinary circumstances.

However, Christian authorities believe what has happened in the Bible only. Therefore, they are handicapped in their own practice of Christianity by dismissing this unexpected factor from God.  Instead, they have always been the foremost group to bend God’s rules for the sake of maintaining the physical church.  Unfortunately, this choice is wrong on multiple accounts from the divine perspective.

This kind of inconsistency doesn’t rest with the Catholic Church alone.  All the Protestant denominations might have liberated themselves from Catholicism and thereafter in the doctrinal and ritualistic areas.  However, all of these churches inherited the exactly same method of maintaining their institutions from the Catholic Church.  Therefore, all religious entities, regardless of Catholic or Protestant, don’t question the idea of giving the bare minimum to the poor and needy, while choosing to be silent with how the powers-that-be conduct themselves, regardless of the periods.  Most of all, churches aren’t aware of their own hypocrisies.

That is how all the denominations of Christianity can respond to the call of feeding the homeless without any question, even to this day.  Meanwhile, all of them have gone through the identical pattern of rise and fall of influence among the general public.  Yet, none of the denominations is aware of the fact that this narrow-minded practice won’t cure the perennial illness of Christianity.

This religious tradition has filtered into the secular society  as well for centuries.  Societal delinquents are often disillusioned with what our government offers them, after having been neglected by the rest of American society.  Our government is programmed to offer the bare minimum resources for survival, granted for a limited duration for each of the needy individual.  And, no one has ever questioned this practice, although our government is saddled with aggravated or chronic issues out of this constituent. This phenomenon demands more resources year after year, especially in the economic downturn.

What is the remedy for Christianity, especially in American society?

The purpose of church may have been belonging even at the expense of defying the Biblical principles.  The goal of Christianity is instilling the moral backbone in each individual, to maximize human dignity. Only then, he or she is equipped with the discretion of which community or societal structure he or she should belong to.  One can help his or her church to abide by the divine principles in its management.  Without that discriminating discipline under the belt, no person, who claims to be a Christian, can benefit others at all.

For example, in spite of the aftermath suffered together out of the financial crisis in 2008, there hasn’t been a collective will among the American public to investigate why such happened and what prevented the U.S. government from repairing our system. Regardless of the faith in God, Americans have worried about their own belongings at any cost.

If American society had Christian authorities, they would have recognized that it was paying the irreparable price for having served two masters (Matthew 6:24).  In the political term, we uphold the divine principles through democracy.  In the economic sense, we worship money above all else by allowing each individual to maximize one’s profits at any cost.  These two are incompatible.  And, such should have been communicated to the general public.  However, no Christian among the religious establishment dared to do so.

Can American Christians get away with such cowardice?  Absolutely not.

As believers, they have had it too easy all along.  Most other nations have long-held dynastic heritages, which make it difficult for Christianity to gain a foothold without any compromise.  The United States was a clean slate that could be founded upon divine principles from its inception, which most Americans take it for granted.

The idea of equality doesn’t hold without the Biblical basis that all of us are born in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), which is one of the fundamental precepts out of the Age of Enlightenment.  It was the cultural revolution among European intellectuals who left the corrupt church to maximize the divine principles in complete purity.  Our founding fathers were products of this era, and adopted such ideas into the societal structure of the United States from its beginning.

There was one flaw in the U.S. Constitution, as our founding fathers sought self-interests through the erroneous economic principle.  This issue affected the minorities only for quite a while.  In the recent decades, the conceptual conflict began to denigrate the majority of Americans, as the country generated a greater segment of educated elites pushing our system to its limit based on what was allowed by the U.S. Constitution.  We’ve reached the point where we can’t ignore this inconsistency any longer.

American Christians have the foremost duty to recognize that our system, as it is, forces us compromise our dignity at all times.  And, they need to command the efforts to bring our system to a functional democracy without any contradiction.

That endeavor is something no secular force has ever attempted.  This pursuit is a long-overdue for American Christians to initiate.  Given how monumental this task is, it requires all denominations of Christianity to cooperate under the goal of completing a living heaven.  And, this lofty goal is something that non-believers can respond, and thereby unite the nation.

Why now for American public?  From the divine perspective, it must be the perfect timing.

All branches of Christianity must have been humbled by each of their progress, or lack thereof, in American society and the rest of the world.  Yet, they must wonder what to be done for the future, individually and collectively.  In terms of human resources, we must have sufficient size of Americans, both believers and non-believers, with the knowledge base and technological skills, who can digest challenging and complicated tasks of an enormous scale.  Finally, as our system has taken a worse turn based on the collective ignorance of the marginalized, well-meaning Americans can no longer be passive.

For this generation of Americans, it is a divine blessing to be given an awesome task to be accomplished.  If we assume and indeed give our best efforts for this purpose, we may be able to please God for once.  He may even pepper us with his miracles to succeed.  That will be a great piece of American history to share with future generations.

The only question is whether they will respond to that divine calling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Causes Homelessness?

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The chart above is just one of the analyses on homelessness in the United States, produced by the federal government agency, HUD.  There are other numerous ways these people are dissected.  In the end, all of them speak to the condition of homelessness.

There are no governmental, nonprofit, or research organizations that have attempted to examine the fundamental cause of why people become homeless.  There seems to be the fear of how overwhelming the issues may be, if they are uncovered.  There seems to be the reservation of how much it will cost to accommodate the societal delinquents.

Without delving into the root of the problem, however, no program is destined to be effective for the beneficiaries.

If we know the reason, the remedy may not have to do with material resources at all.  This post is to address that unexplored element.  To do so, I offer a closer look at a governmental homeless shelter in New Jersey, which has been the place where I’ve dwelt since the mid-December of 2016.  My own experience as well as my direct access to fellow homeless individuals should offer the insight that outsiders normally can’t and don’t catch.

Based on my experience, I’ve seen a fuller portrait of America represented at where I’ve been. I’ve come across the entire spectrum of age, class, ethnicity, race, and religion represented at my location.  In terms of gender, there are definitely more men than women, which corresponds with the national statistics.  The vast majority of homeless individuals, at least where I am, are cigarette-smokers.

Differentiating homeless people in various categories works against solving the problem. And, becoming a homeless is the last stage of relinquishing control over one’s life.  Therefore, securing a dwelling place is the last thing that a homeless individual needs to regain the command of his or her life.

The United States is a country that consists of people of diverse origins and backgrounds, but with the same goal as anyone else, the American dream.  Unfortunately, there is a segment of population, of a diverse background, who either have faltered or can’t fulfill such for whatever reasons.  Finding the commonality among those individuals appears to be the best route to tackle the homelessness.

As I’ve spoken with a variety of fellow guests at the homeless shelter, I’ve detected a consistent cause among us.  We have had difficulty with a boundary against others.

We live in a country where one can maximize his or her self-gains or profits at any cost.  As this dominating economic principle has no boundary, each individual has to establish his or her border against others to guard himself or herself.  That is a common sense among Americans.  To succeed and to belong to the mainstream, one has to be vigilant about exploiting others but not reciprocating their kindness.  That behavior is perfectly legal in the United States.

The recurrent fault of homeless individuals at where I am is that we’ve made an exception to this societal norm.  With our loved ones or inner circle, we presumed the boundary was unnecessary.  Most of us were unconditionally giving or trusting, but ended up being betrayed or let down by family members, friends, lovers, or entrusted authorities.  However, many of us ended up being defenseless against what we had gone through.

Abusing oneself or others, falling into depression, relying on alcohol or drugs, becoming chronically homeless were the forms of reaction against how the reality went against what the homeless individuals thought this world should be.  All of these measures were self-destructive.  What I’d gathered was that those who employed such felt entitled to harm themselves at least in one point in life, as others with power already had.

What would be the proper remedy for these wounded souls?

The rational solution may be to indoctrinate them as to how the majority of Americans cope with the reality, especially for success.  However, I predict such will be useless.

Why?  Many of my fellow homeless individuals have big hearts.  In spite of their experiences, these people are quite forgiving.  They rather not conform to the inhumane way of living, if that choice is available.  In the absence of such, they suffer the material consequences.  Some of them do so repeatedly.

Among this circle, I found receptive ears as I shared my experience.  It would have been so easy for me if I could hate those who betrayed me.  Instead, I understood their mental weakness, even at my most trying moment in life.

Just like my fellow shelter guests, I was left alone to console my heart.  It was apparent that God protected the weaklings more in the human world.  I wondered what it meant for those of us who believed in God who did absolutely nothing for us.

A few days of meditation rendered the revelation.  What many of us did was to create our individual haven in a tiny scale by defying the societal norm.  And, none of us could sustain that realm on our own.  Every one of them was shattered in the end.

If this world indeed went against the divine goal and methods, those who believe in God needed to seek to alter this orbit for all.  The reason that we don’t extend that far has to do with the lack of faith in ourselves and the Almighty.

In the end, God had nothing to do with our predicament.  It was entirely our fault.  We didn’t have the conviction to begin with.  And, we didn’t seek ideas, strength, and wisdom from God to dare the worthy goal.   Instead, we either settled for less or gave up.

The quandary for the readers is as follows:  Although you don’t suffer the material poverty like homeless individuals, you may have the same traits as we do, or think like we do. Unfortunately, if you don’t want to fall into the same trap as we do, you are advised to live your life on guard at all times.

You can’t be certain of your judgment about others.  If our experience is any indication, you don’t possibly know them until you are confronted with the reality that tests your relationships.  If you dare to give unconditionally to your inner circle like us, you can’t avoid the similar consequences, which happens more in later stage of your lives.

Your choice or preference of giving is arbitrary from the divine perspective.  Therefore, you eventually pay the price for having committed self-indulgence filled with inequity and unfairness, like we do.

If that is the apparent path all of us are destined to walk, the question is whether you want to continue to conform to the societal rule that mandates mutual brutality from all of us, or to question the alternative that endorses humanity in our relationships with others at all times.