Over the past several weeks, more and more people who thought they'd never find themselves homeless or very near it have come to see if there is anything I can do at all to help stave off their fall to the street.
It's been a grueling time, both for them and for me. I'm not complaining nor whining here, just providing anecdotal views on the current state of our economy and let me tell you folks, it sucks, and it ain't getting much better as we oh so slowly head toward "recovery," whatever that means.
Do I tell you about the couple who live in the country and are facing foreclosure next week after the husband lost his job after 22 years? Wife is dying of cancer and the medical bills are hurrying her death quicker than the cancer itself.
Or do I tell you about the couple with five kids living in their van after being chased from New Orleans - again - by forces of nature; the first time it was Katrina, the second time it was black mold caused by the first disaster.
Or how bout I talk a moment about the man who works every night as a security guard and comes home to his Jeep Cherokee? He's been living in his car since he lost his job last summer and can't get enough ahead to get out of the vehicle and into an apartment.
Even though I spent the majority of my life dirt poor, I didn't realize there were thousands, hundreds of thousands, of people living hand to mouth just like me. I never knew just how bad it is for such a huge number of people.
And these aren't your "typical" homeless, if there is such a thing; I think a more fitting label would be the "working poor." But in years past, the working poor were usually able to afford a place to live, even if it wasn't the Ritz.
Today however, it appears that those who fall within the classification "working poor" and who have a place to live are both extremely fortunate and dwindling in number. For an ever-larger number, being a member of this group means being homeless.
And increasingly, folks who come to see me are grumbling. They are angry. They are frustrated.
They can't understand how it is that the "leaders" of our country are able to throw billions of dollars around outside the walls of the homeland with barely a comment, yet obstruct, yell, curse and stamp their feet when we ask them to share some of the wealth here at home.
They're confused as to how it is that those they choose to lead us out of the mess previous "leaders" got us into - on both sides of the aisles, folks - continually seem to forget us as soon as they hang the drapes in their new office.
They're mad that the welfare system they've been told for years has been extravagant turns out to be a bold-faced lie.
They're shell-shocked when they discover that, unless they're considered "chronically homeless"....hold it, let me give you the official definition, since this is what they're held to: (1) an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, OR (2) an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years." they've really got nothing coming in the way of resources or assistance.
And they are beyond frustrated that they cannot find a job with pay adequate enough to allow them to survive. And I'm not talking here about luxury living, or even middle class stability. Just enough to pay all the bills each month, have food every day and be able to fill the gas tank or purchase a 31-day bus pass to get back and forth to work.
When some people find themselves in these predicaments, they begin acting in ways many of us find offensive and/or disturbing. Scapegoating, suicides, domestic violence, alcoholism and/or drug abuse, mental illness, crimes of desperation, all end up on the table of human response possibilities.
And it's a vicious cycle; money from the state and federal coffers that could be used to increase wages, improve training, and/or provide housing subsidies to assist end up being funneled to law enforcement, mental health and emergency services, since the demand for these services all seems to increase as a result.
I'm not really going anywhere with this post, I guess I'm just venting my own frustration that I'm unable to grab someone who can help change things by the arm, look em in the eye, and use the psychology technique perfected by Bob Newhart......