Comment writer Zoe Olukoga considers where the voice of opposition comes from today, and how necessary it isWritten by Redbrick on 18th February 2017
Feed the Homeless if you Must, but Keep it Far Away From Us.
Social divisions are ever increasing but are the wealthy still prepared to play their part or has image become too important?
The ‘not in my back yard’ concept has existed worldwide for many years now. People recognise that there is a problem and that it needs a solution, but they want that solution kept as far away as possible from their hometowns.
In the US this ‘not in my back yard’ concept has begun to form around a slightly different issue - soup kitchens. Affluent areas around the country such as Santa Monica and Hollywood have started to protest about the soup kitchens in their areas, claiming that they bring down the ‘prestige’ of the neighbourhood and are a threat to society, because many of the citizens who are using the facilties are drug addicts and mentally unstable. Consequently these neighbourhoods are requesting a closure and a want to move them to the poorer neighbourhoods, which are already ‘damaged’.
“20 % of the soup kitchen clientele are children, however 12 million children are said to be living below the poverty line,
According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, there are 1,750,000 homeless people in the US. 44 % of them were shown to have done paid work in the last month, suggesting they have a desire to live without help from the state. Moreover 20 % of the soup kitchen clientele are children, however 12 million children are said to be living below the poverty line, which means this number is most likely going to increase.
In addition to children, college/university graduates are starting to make up the line too. One person who was interviewed in a soup kitchen line said that she had gone to Stanford but three years ago lost her job as a teacher but has been unable to re-train because of the astronomical cost of college, often up to $60,000 a year. She can be seen as part of the ‘New Homeless’ in the US; ‘We tried to catch a break and there was no net to catch us’. This suggests that today poor people are not always mentally unstable or drug addicts, as suggested by those living in the affluent areas. Rather they are just like us, wanting to get ahead but without the means to do so and therefore left in poverty.
The saddest thing, in my opinion, is that man has failed to realise that ‘We are rich only through what we give, and poor only through what we refuse.’ By closing the shelters and soup kitchens in the more affluent areas, it is suggesting that the wealthy should not have to expose themselves to the issues that the poor are facing. They often think of those in poverty as being ‘below’ themselves and fail to realise that the poor have just as many rights as they do and as demonstrated by the Stanford graduate, frequently those they look down upon were once one of them.
““We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty”.
On another level this issue bothers me because it seems obvious that it is the wealthy members of society who have the most money to give and are the ones who can help solve the issue of poverty. If these kitchens do not exist in their towns, they wont see the problem and will be less inclined to help sort the growing issue of poverty.
This forms the question as to why so many of the wealthy are so desperate to shield their eyes to the problems in society. Has image really become that important? Worryingly, the British do not appear to be any different.
Last month Waitrose said that any person who possessed a store membership card could get a daily free hot drink, regardless of purchasing an item. Complaints soared from the normal Waitrose customers who felt that as a result of the free drinks, more poor people were coming into the shop now and consequently the experience was far less pleasant and Waitrose was becoming suitable for the commoner instead of just the upper middle class.
When did it become acceptable to say comments like this? To suggest that it is tolerable to pretend the problem does not exist and ‘ship it off’ for the less fortunate people to deal with.
As Mother Teresa said “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty”. The first type of poverty may sometimes be out of our control because sadly, money is not something many of us have lying around to give, but it’s in our power to make sure we avoid the second and ensure that when we can help, we step up to the task and do not shield our eyes from the reality that exists, often just outside our front door.