After viewing this 60 Minutes feature, I got to thinking. Please take a few minutes to watch it, or to refresh your own memory. As you do, try to imagine how you would deal with a similar situation.
“If you’re not part of the solution,
you’re part of the problem.”
Before this became a radical 60’s slogan, it was a philosophical concept, based in Biblical, Asian and ancient Africa thought. Unfortunately, it’s also an inescapable truth. As our shared societal challenges become more pressing, it becomes increasingly incumbent upon us to address those issues. Avoiding our problems compounds them, makes them more difficult to resolve later and fosters new difficulties.
Using the same logic, by offering (and contributing to) the solutions, we can slow or reverse our problems, begin to see substantive change and avoid creating related crises.
Nowhere is this corollary more true than in preparing our children for the challenges of life.
Where do you fit in?
Q: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
A: Practice, Live Homeless, Practice.
James Matthews is a remarkable young man. He plays a mean piano, as his recent Honorable Mention in the 2014 American Protege International Piano and Strings Competition proves. But, his story is even more inspirational as a demonstration of the valuable potential of people who end up homeless.
Mr. Matthews, as a struggling student, slept for a while in his instructor’s music studio. Under these less-than-ideal circumstances he persevered and refined his music gift, ultimately achieving every musician’s dream: a gig at Carnegie Hall in NYC. Read his story here.
Irrational fear of homeless American citizens appears in many forms. We might glance away or discard a job application. We may say “Beat it!” or even call the cops. But, when it comes to locating a homeless resource center in an urban core, decision-makers frequently employ all kinds of arguments, some with hidden messages. Property values, crime rates and City image are often cited in the debate.
Sarasota is currently addressing the issue of homelessness; discussing the very services that could help individuals like Matthews. City and County officials are debating the pros and cons of various approaches to the problem, possible sites for a multifunction shelter and wrestling with budget concerns. Some people cite cases of increased police calls, data showing drops in housing prices and even the ubiquitous “Homeland Security” as reasons to locate a shelter anywhere other than their neighborhood. However, the trouble with using data alone to prove a point is that C doesn’t always follow A and B. For instance, a shelter was built in 2008. Property values in the area went down. Were the homeless to blame? Anybody who lived through the “great recession” knows that’s just silly.
Does this mean that careful attention to the environmental and societal impact of site selection is unnecessary while dealing with the issue of homelessness? Of course not; no more than the reverse is true. On April 1, the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners “workshop” Q&A helped allay some of those irrational fears. Analysis of data by Dr. Robert Marbut and others over many years has stubbornly refused to predict a doomsday scenario despite rising numbers in some areas.
As we proceed, we would do well to remember the ultimate reality. Homelessness is not a crime.