Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I do not understand this mindset

Sunday evening, I was reading over at Fark and came across this story (I'm using Fark's headline here, & linking to the newspaper column): Texas wonders if homeless people should work in exchange for shelter.

From that column (this is in an Austin paper, by the way, which should probably explain much):

No, said Front Steps spokesman Mitchell Gibbs. The nonprofit's first priority is to make sure people come in for services. Staffers feel that requiring clients to perform chores might make them stay away from the shelter, where they are connected to services that can get them off the streets permanently, such as job training, drug treatment or housing.


The Salvation Army in Austin takes the same approach and does not force clients to work at its downtown shelter, which houses about 250 people every night. There are liability issues involved in requiring people to work, and staffers encourage people to spend their free time looking for work or housing, said Kathleen Ridings, the nonprofit's director of social services.

for a counterpoint:

Haven for Hope, a homeless shelter in San Antonio, does things differently. The 37-acre campus has multiple programs in which long-term residents are taught jobs skills such as construction or janitorial work, then employ those skills on campus, said development director Megan Legacy. Residents, for example, recently did some remodeling work at the shelter.
The facility has an outdoor sleeping area for homeless people who are not involved in rehabilitation programs and are not medically fragile. If they want to sleep inside, they have to volunteer at the shelter for at least seven days, performing tasks such as cleaning bathrooms or wiping down sleeping mats. The idea is to encourage good behavior and hopefully inspire them to take advantage of other services on campus that help them rebuild their lives, Legacy said.
Honestly, I had no idea that shelters didn't insist on "residents" pitching in.  We're not talking about forced labor, for crying out loud, we're talking about picking up a fucking broom and sweeping.  When I went to summer camp, we had to do chores in our cabin, and we paid for the privilege of being there.  My kids have to do chores, and they certainly have much less to do with their situation in life than your average homeless person.  My kids do chores so that they learn how to be competent individuals when they're adults, and because in a family we all pitch in and do stuff.

This sort of outlook is bad for the homeless how?

But wait, there's more!  There's the comments section on Fark itself, where we are informed that expecting a bum to wipe down his nap mat is tantamount to slavery (misspellings left intact, of course):

gopher321: Where the hell does such diregard/antipathy towards your fellow man come from anyway? I do understand the American mindset of honouring the independant/bootstrappy individual, but how does that turn into not only ignoring those down on their luck, but actively working against them?

Got that?  "Pick up after yourself" is actively working against a person.

R.A.Danny: So educated, experienced people can't find jobs, but we're gonna make the mentally ill work like slaves for food and shelter? Awesome.
Really?  None of those educated, experienced people who are falling on hard times wind up homeless?  It's something that happens only to the mentally ill (oh, and veterans, though I guess in the eyes of some those two go hand-in-hand).

The more you eat the more you fart: This is just wrong. By any definition...its wrong.

If you are christian: shame on you for being a hypocrite. Im sure this isnt what Jesus said about the homeless, hungry, and poor.

If you arent: having respect for other people STILL makes this wrong. They have value simply because they are. We should not, as a society, treat human beings as though they are disposable or worthless.

/self-professed libertarian who has common sense...and apparently an intact sense of compassion.

*facepalm*  As the title of this post states, I do not understand this mindset.  I just don't.  How is it unChristian to help people to help themselves?  How is insisting on a very small measure of self-reliance and responsibility a sin? 

Again, I'm forced to go back to the example of being a parent.  It's generally understood that good parents give their children some level of responsibility starting from a very young age (toddlers can be expected to pick up their toys, for example).  This serves, among other things, to enhance their self esteem--we know intuitively that we get increased responsibilities only as we exhibit increased capabilities. 

But we can't do this with grown-ups?  It works the other way, or something?  That just really doesn't make sense.  Not from any standpoint.  Learned helplessness is a bad thing.  Insisting that homeless people have no responsibility for themselves--which is the unspoken message of not wanting them to contribute through doing chores--will inculcate that sense of helplessness.  Know what locking homeless people into a sense of helplessness does?  It locks them into being homeless.  And, yeah, that gives liberals someone to feel good about themselves by "helping"--but as I've said time and again, creating a permanent underclass does nothing for the people in said underclass.

We conservatives are the uncaring ones, though.  Got that?


pax said...

Great post.

Back in the 1980s, I worked (first as a volunteer, later as paid staff) at a non-profit organization that helped the homeless. It was heartbreaking to see how hopeless a lot of those folks were: nothing to do, nowhere to go, no expectation of anything ever changing. I saw that often, giving them useful something to do, no matter how minor or menial, was often the first step toward changing that.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Sabra.

BobG said...

What a lot of those people don't realize is that having useful work at a shelter will bring in exactly the sort of people that can be helped the most. There are some people who don't like to accept charity, and won't go to a shelter because of that. Giving them a job to do that makes them feel like they are earning their keep. And people who have that attitude are the type that are trying to get out of their rut and support themselves, so they should be encouraged. The sort of person who won't take charity unless it is handed to them free of charge is a different type of person. The sort that is too lazy to do anything doesn't deserve help, and should be allowed to take the consequences for their attitude.
Just my opinion.

peter d said...

Wonder what Robert thinks about this?

Anonymous said...

"We conservatives are the uncaring ones, though. Got that?" I know. It's really obvious from watching the GOP debates. They also seem to have problems with things like basic concepts like "reasonable doubt" in a criminal trial and science.