We then exited a store and Kimsaid something under her breath like, “Oh, no,” when I looked in the samedirection to find a middle aged man with a drunken stare to him. She knew thisman as “the town drunk” and he had been homeless for years. He asked us for thetime and we replied, but he didn’t just stop with that and followed us acrossthe street talking up a storm. He was telling his whole life story in thefifteen minutes we stood there: he talked about how he grew up living poor withhis family and how he wanted to be educated and go through college to get a goodjob so he could live well. But he said his parents just didn’t have the moneyand it was impossible. I felt threatened as did Mike and Kim from the drunkengestures of this man and thought to myself, if this man wanted to make somethingof his life, I mean if he really wanted to, he would try harder and somehow dowh at he wanted.
We tried to leave as soon as possible. But then I began reading these essays about the homeless and it startedto change my mind. The essay “Virginia’s Trap” by Peter Marin especiallyeffected me because of the way it portrays the young woman that has nothinggoing for her and almost everything against her. I though about this and decidedI had misunderstood the whole plight of this population and thought there mustbe a better way to help these unfortunate people. How should we help thehomeless and should we try even though they may not help themselves? I figurethat is the most important question that needs to be answered if anything is tobe done. Of the essays I analyzed Awalt’s “Brother Don’t Spare a Dime” was theone essay that went against the idea of helping the homeless because the authorthinks it’s their own fault for being the way they are.
The other two essays areeasier on the homeless and want to lend a helping hand. In “Address Unknown:Homeless in Contemporary America” James Wright thinks that helping the homelessby giving them more benefits that they will be more prosperous. Peter Marin hasthe same idea in “Virginia’s Trap” where the young woman is in need of just alittle bit more money to stay the way she is in a home but doesn’t receiveenough. While Awalt’s narrow view of homeless people gives him the idea that allshould not be helped in anyway, Wright and Marin go towards the idea of helpingthe people because they have already had a rough life and do in fact need thishelp to go anywhere in life. Awalt’s statement that homeless people are a “waste of time” is a verygeneral statement in the least. Throughout his essay he only mentioned workingwith one homeless person trying to help him through a detoxification program.
This person failed the procedure and left to go back to the streets and drinkagain. (Awalt 239) Just because this one person didn’t have the endurance toundergo such an operation doesn’t mean others wouldn’t. What we need to have isa more “hands on” program with these homeless people to give them the attentionthat they need so that a majority of the people will not end up like this buteventually in their own homes. The opposite view is shared by Wright and Marin in their more lengthyand detailed essays.
Wright starts out saying that not all homeless are the sameand should not all be treated the same. He states there are different classes ofhomeless people and there are the worthy and unworthy homeless, meaning thatonly some deserve to remain this way because they don’t try to live otherwise. These small amount of people, about five percent, don’t deserve the time andmoney spent on trying to get them off the streets but the only way to find outif they don’t is to try at least once with them. If it doesn’t work out that’s asmall amount of effort wasted but if it does work it is a grand success andanother homeless person is off the street. Marin has the same view with”Virginia’s Trap” adding a great deal of sympathy for the main character in thestory by telling it from her point of view.
Virginia is also in a differentclass of homelessness, the subset of the poverty that is marginally housed. Sheis “trapped” in between housing and none at all because of her poor backgroundand problems with low income. The author even tries to help Virginia stay in herhouse at the time but it all collapses financially on her again. (Marin 250)That is why benefits for people who are actually trying to get back on theirfeet should be raised according to their situation. I believe that Awalt’s view of the homeless is a narrow-minded, stubbornone and that Wright and Marin should at least try to help these people and givethem the benefit of the doubt. I realized that I was wrong from my firstinterpretation of the middle aged man I met in the city and that it is hard forhim to have a chance in this world without the proper money and help to back himup.
In some cases the homeless may not deserve all the help we try to give thembut if we are to destroy this ongoing problem we have to: as Wright states, “Thefederal government must massively intervene in the private housing market, tohalt the loss of additional low-income units and to underwrite the constructionof many more; and benefits paid to the welfare-dependent population mustdouble.” (Wright 265) I believe that this is a very good idea along with theincreased effort of individuals that try to help these homeless and that itcould seriously help the problem.Category: English