By Arlene Jones
Last week I wrote about Curtis Jackson, the homeless guy who for years, no matter the season, kept an abode in a recess along the window-front of the Sears store at North Avenue and Harlem. He was recently convicted of trespassing, issued a fine, and told he cannot be within that vicinity or risk arrest.
I don't know why he ended up homeless, preferring to live on the street as opposed to going to any of the city, county or state government agencies for help. From the citizens who saw him there on the coldest of nights, to the police who had to enforce the laws against him, to the court system that decreed his punishment, it appears not a single entity intervened to solve/help his situation. But then again, he did have a smart phone and it might have been an "Obama phone." And, because in this country he can pick and choose his help, maybe that is all the help he wanted. This is a country where no matter one's socio-economic status, people have the freedom to go for what they want, even if what they need should be their main goal.
I wonder if Mr. Jackson's decision to trespass and make himself a home on Sears' property was any different from the millions of people who decided to trespass our borders and make themselves a home here? He was earning money (even if came via begging and under the table); he paid his taxes (those infamous sales taxes that no one can avoid); and he limited his use of government services so, theoretically, he wasn't a burden on the taxpayers. Yet his ordered deportation from the location he had called home for the past number of years (I will say at least six) hasn't sparked any outrage. Where are the activists to fight for his rights? Where are the churches to stand with him? Where is the "Go Fund Me" site to help him receive money?
The truth is, we only pretend we care. It is easier to go after the "mean-spirted" messenger than to admit that in this society — which is being pulled in a multitude of directions — we don't have the time or the concern to care. We profess to be about one thing, but we have become as capitalistic as the economy we live in. We cannot focus on issues because we have so many of them pulling us apart.
Homelessness has lost its glamour as the "flavor of the month." I don't know the status of Streetwise, but the homeless aren't selling it on street corners to make money like they did in the past. Plus, homelessness is not sexy anymore. It is also not a new phenomenon. If you think about it, before there was homelessness, there were "hobos," "tramps" and "bums."
Being a beggar existed as far back as when Jesus roamed Galilee. We feel better when we don't have to see it and the corner of North Avenue and Harlem looks a hell of a lot better without a homemade encampment. I admit that viewing Mr. Jackson sleeping up against the store window with the "No loitering" sign was a tad facetious, but a hard decision was made that ended up with him having to leave his spot just like some hard decisions will have to be made that may make those living here illegally have to leave this country.
There is a lot of advocacy for the illegal alien while there is little empathy for the homeless American. The question that lingers is: Why?
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