What do you think?
Do you support the proposed anti-urban camping ordinance Surprise City Council will consider and, potentially, adopt on June 19?
Should West Valley cities – including Surprise – consider bringing shelter options and other services for homeless people to their communities?
Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The following guest commentary was printed in the June 13, 2018 issue of Surprise Today.)
Recently there was a letter to the editor published in the paper by a Surprise resident (“Homeless? Not in my back yard!” Surprise Today, June 6, 2018).
This contemptuous write-up captured my attention as I was saddened by the blatant over-generalization regarding the homeless this particular gentlemen made in the article: “These people don’t want to be ordinary citizens. Laws? We don’t need no stinkin’ laws. Crap, drink, pee and live where they want. It’s how they roll!”
I once had a wise professor in college teach us a very simple, yet very important, lesson in one of his many lectures: “Over-generalizations can be your worst enemy.”
A popular myth, held by far too many, is the belief that all people experiencing homelessness are “a bunch of lazy drug addicts and drunks.”
While it is certainly true addiction can be a major component in the life of many homeless people, it never distinctly defines the entire individual nor is it the whole story.
There is always a name behind the face and there is a person who once had the same dreams we all have in life.
On a consistent basis, with the generous help of many other good-hearted people, I have the opportunity to help provide food and hygiene items to some of our local homeless people here in Surprise.
We know many of the homeless people by name and have built relationships with them over the past year.
Our little undercover group has even helped a Surprise homeless man begin the journey of getting his life back together as he is now going through the Foundations Program at the Phoenix Rescue Mission (phoenixrescuemission.org).
We have also had the chance to speak directly with some of our homeless friends regarding all of the recent backlash against them.
One of our homeless friends is 50 years old and has been homeless in Surprise for seven years now. He made the following statement hoping people can see things a bit from his perspective:
“If people would try to put themselves in my shoes, maybe they wouldn’t judge me so harshly all the time. When people see me lying in the street, they would rather call the cops instead of seeing if I am OK or even alive. Most people want to stay in their safe cocoon and don’t want to be bothered. They would rather judge me and just want me to disappear because they don’t like the way I look. If they actually spoke with me, they would see I have an actual name and I am a normal human being just like them. I am just a regular guy stuck in a terrible situation I don’t want to be in. Unfortunately, stuff rolls downhill and the homeless are easy targets for people to blame everything on.”
Another homeless man made this simple yet enlightening statement: “Give me a place to go to work so I can I have a sense of dignity and purpose in my life again.”
Let’s clarify that the definition of homelessness simply means not having a place to live and it is not an individual flaw or moral weakness.
Let’s face it, even those who are well-educated sometimes struggle to make ends meet and could quite possibly end up on the streets.
No one is exclusively immune to this potential predicament and it could happen to any one of us if we are unexpectedly faced with an extreme life crisis.
Until we figure out some practical and sustainable solution to income equality and affordable housing, the problem of homelessness is not going vanish into thin air.
Furthermore, constructing laws that promote eradicating homelessness has the power to hinder the homeless rather than provide a viable solution for them.
As St. Augustine once said: “An unjust law is no law at all.”
Michael Bober, Surprise
Editor’s note: Mr. Bober and his wife, Anna Swieton Bober, are organizers of the local advocacy group Homeless Helpers.