We have plenty of building supplies, in fact, we have enough buildings. Yet, an estimated 100 million people on earth spend their nights on the streets or in places without shelter. Moreover, in an act of utmost stupidity, many cities are passing legislation actually making it a crime to be homeless, as though all who are homeless are so by choice.
Why are people homeless? We might also ask, why do you live in a home (if you do)? Do you earn an income that is enough to pay the place you live? What if the economic factors that enable you to have a place to sleep were not available to you? When money is the determining factor of whether or not you have a place to sleep, homelessness is inevitable for many people. When 50% of the economic wealth resides in the accounts of 1% of the world’s population, and money determines one’s ability to find housing, homelessness is inevitable.
Monetary systems and economic inequality can be an easy target for us to place blame. But that would be like blaming a broken hammer for building a faulty house. The fault is not of the hammer, but within our limited understanding of how a hammer ought to be used. Because we are focused on our “survival of the fittest” mentality we overlook the fact that the needless suffering of others is indeed a symptom a direct manifestation of the sickness and suffering that we ourselves are experiencing. As we walk by the homeless on our streets, mindlessly in disregard of the suffering that each of us may play a role in eliminating, do we see the impact of our action or better verbalized, inaction?
Now, do not get me wrong, this is not a guilt trip. This is not to say that we should or should not act in such a way as to end homelessness through our own individual’s action or inaction. But what I pose is the simple question of do we see ourselves in the shoes of someone else? Do we see that our circumstances, be they having a place to sleep or not, are of a superficial variety? That the circumstances of having a home or place to sleep are in some sense just as likely to be in the state of one without a place to sleep or not? And, what happens if we do see ourselves in the shoes of another? What happens when we do see that the suffering of others is indeed our suffering as well?
When we answer that question, perhaps we will trust one another as human beings regardless of circumstances.