When you see a homeless person, what goes through your mind? Is he/she a victim of circumstances, truly trapped or a willing collaborator, conspiring to pull-one-over on society, getting the “free ride?” Are they unable to advance their situation or simply unwilling to do what it takes?
This is not an easy question to answer, and ultimately must be answered person-by-person, but let me see if I can stir your thinking just a bit.
For perspective on this question, please consider this: No one gets out alone.
Whatever the condition getting one into homelessness, bad breaks or bad choices or a combination of the two, the way out requires some basic human resources that are missing by the time they get to the door of UGM Salem.
Most of us take for granted the basic relational skills needed to negotiate successfully the ups and downs of all human relationships. Imagine the range of relationships one must navigate to get on in life. We have family, friends, bosses and potential bosses, work colleagues, store clerks, law enforcement, creditors, even instructors at school.
When the inevitable disappointments come, there needs to be skills enough to manage them without making things worse. It sounds easy enough. However, for those who come to us for help, these basic skills are gone; or worse -they never existed.
Parenting at the “good enough” level will generally lead to relational skill levels that allow advancing through life. However, in 13 years of ministry, I never had a single client who was not from an abusive or neglectful home life. Not one!
A common characteristic of relationally dysfunctional people is not knowing their condition. To them, it looks like the world is working against them. They react accordingly. They do not know what they do not know.
It is often these folks who medicate the intense frustration of their lives with chemicals. It is a myth that addiction is about pleasure seeking. It is about pain management: emotional pain management.
Add to this mix of relational dysfunction and chemical addiction the fact that the road to homelessness is filled with trauma, and you have the perfect storm of human tragedy. This is our clientele.
To further complicate the question of unwilling or unable is the issue of time. The longer one is in homelessness the less likely they are to get out, ever. If the guest is young (as this is our fastest growing demographic), it takes less to turn things around. If the guest is older, the journey is long and arduous, usually requiring many stays at the mission.
The face of homelessness has changed. The causes of homelessness have changed as well. This fact is clear: No one gets out alone.
by Aaron Eggers, VP of Ministries