Monday, July 10, 2006


Dealing with the homeless has gotten me thinking about the question of birthright: what is a human being entitled to merely by virtue of the fact that they are human? There is a universal consensus that they are entitled not to be murdered. If someone is killed, even a homeless person, the police will make at least a token attempt to find and prosecute the perpetrator. But beyond that there seems to be very little consensus. Certainly there seem to be a lot of folks out there who believe that a person is not entitled to a roof over their head. What then? Are they entitled to food? Clean water? A place to defecate? Toilet paper? A toothbrush? A blanket? A kind word? To sleep? To sleep where they can be seen by ordinary, decent, hard-working, god-fearing, money-spending tourists?

I have been at this just over a week now, and I've probably talked to twenty or so homeless people. Without exception they have all (with the exception of one grouch who wouldn't talk to me) been nice, mostly coherent, ordinary folks. Even the crazy guy who calls himself Ra, wears glasses painted to look like windows, and spends day after day standing on the same corner reading verses from the Bible at the top of his lungs ("100% born again Christian" is how he describes himself) is a pretty nice, albeit strange, guy once you get to know him.

And yet there are still a lot of them that I'm afraid to approach: the ones who hang out in the "druggy" part of the park, the guy dressed in the winter parka with God only knows how many layers underneath (picture a dark version of the Michelin Man) who was ranting at a photographer who wasn't even trying to take a picture of him, the bag lady sitting on the bench crying, the psychotic guy digging through the trash can while shouting at things unseen.

They are all human. What are they entitled to?

1 comment:

Ron said...

Just wanted to see if anyone was paying attention ;-)