I get the feeling1 that a lot of people who are middle to upper class have the idea that the poor among us are, for the most part, there because they chose to be. That because of bad choices the person made, they're out of money and living on the streets. It might come from what we saw in high school where some kids would freely choose to spend a weekend partying, drinking, taking drugs, etc. and assuming that those kids, who for the most part came from decent homes and families, ended up as the poor hobo begging for change by the mall. And maybe some of them did become that.
But the more I hear and read about the poor, the more I think we need to have our eyes opened to the fact that they aren't there simply because of some bad choices in high school, or a gambling problem gone very wrong - the poor and downtrodden of our city are there because of choices made by their parents or family and other factors completely out of their control.
For example, in the Star Phoenix today there's an article about a guy who found out he's HIV positive and if not for The Lighthouse he thinks he'd probably be dead.
Typically drug user, right? Junkie who just isn't disciplined enough to quit. Took drugs because he's selfish and doesn't care about those around him.
He still has slip-ups and does morphine occasionally, he said, but thanks to the Lighthouse he has been off cocaine for several months - no easy task for someone who was introduced to the highly addictive drug at the age of 12 by his father.
Gah. Maybe it's becoming a father that has opened my eyes to the influence, good or bad, that parents have over their kids but things like that just gut me. I don't know how you could do that to your own kid - but then his dad probably did it to him and the cycle just continues.
It's not to say that they are therefore justified in living off social assistance for the rest of their life, just to acknowledge that coming from that kind of background, with that kind of family "support" is going to be a lot harder to overcome.
There's no easy solution to the problems. But let's make sure we're looking at the root of the problems instead of merely judging based on what we see on the surface.