A better way to be our brothers’ keepers

Paul appeared to be dead on the day of the solar eclipse
Paul appeared to be dead on the day of the solar eclipse

Ugly politics in this hardscrabble time calls us to become de facto brothers’ keepers. It’s not getting better in the foreseeable future so let’s face this harsh reality and figure out an effective approach, re-thinking where we live and with whom, for starters.


Paul and Felipe, fixtures here in Uptown, appear to be skinny, homeless street friends with obvious health issues.

Felipe’s neck repeatedly jerks far to one side. Paul’s right eye isn’t firmly in the socket and sometimes oozes with puss.

Paul wasn't dead but hardly in fine shape
Paul wasn’t dead but hardly in fine shape

The day of the solar eclipse, Paul was lying on the parkway with a branch over his face. He appeared to be dead so I called to the delivery guy across the street for moral support and advice. He saw him take a breath. The friend that I was meeting for the solar eclipse said to call 911. I reasoned that the cops must be very familiar with this guy and if there was anything they could do, they would have already done it.

He finally roused himself just as his friend was coming down the street. I had exactly $0.38 on me but his friend assured me that he would be fine. I was rushing to watch the solar eclipse with my friend but stopped at an ATM for cash, thinking that if he was still there, I’d give him $10 – a princely sum for me. He was and asked for a drink of water.

Paul, Felipe, and countless like them, live so close to the edge that when I don’t see them for several days, I wonder if they have transitioned to the Great Beyond. It reminded me of my dream, I had a nightmare, which is even more relevant than it was in 2010.

The tragedy of homelessness is quite visible but there is hidden despair as well.

The National Housing Conference reports that “15 percent of all U.S. households (17.6 million households) had a severe housing cost burden in 2014,” which means that they paid over fifty percent of their income on housing costs. An unexpected expense, such as medical, vehicle repair, or anything else, can put them in a hole that is difficult to dig out of.

When the social structure erodes, support for functional families, adequate food, housing, education, and much more, goes with it and tens of millions of people end up on the street begging for spare change. Spare change is a meager gesture. They need housing, food, and services to get back on their feet.

I can’t turn a blind eye to the corrupt politics that brought us to this pitiful state. It is cause for rage. The world is literally awash in money with trillions of dollars stashed offshore. Obviously, the corporate creed—paying taxes is for suckers—is hurtling our country into dangerous territory.

Until we come to our senses, and it’s not clear what it will take or when it will happen, it is up to those of us who see this suffering to do what we can to be our brothers’ keepers. An obvious place to start is re-thinking our housing policies. When people are securely housed, they can take care of their children, and their health, get more training and look for better jobs and much more.

New Community Vision seeks to partner with congregations and community groups to organize frequent occasions to socialize and meet others. Eventually, relationships will form, some may be close, while others may be respectful and functional–which is a blessing in itself. 
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