Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Homelessness

There is almost no news to hear, see or read these days that is not sombre. You build a certain level of resistance against it over time but this story on the plight of homeless people in America broke through it. I have grown up in a country where the homeless are out in the open and impossible to ignore. For the most part, no one does anything about them and life just goes on - for them and the rest of us. While there is a lot to be anxious about in India but the average person with an education, a job and a home to live is not worried about becoming homeless.

What is different about the American homelessness story is that a "regular" person with an all the trappings of a "normal" and "functional" life can suddenly find themselves homeless. Once they are there, the barrier to re-entering the ranks for "regular" people who have homes becomes very high. It seems like this terrifying line which once crossed can be forever. Simple things like going for a job interview can become an insurmountable problem if the job-seeker has no where to park his belongings, or has no money to commute to work until they get their first paycheck.

Listening to Eric Sheptock reminded me of the character of Chris Gardner played by Will Smith in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness. If one is super-talented and blessed with extraordinary will-power like Gardner , then no barrier is impossible to break - for most homeless people, however the obstacles in their way to economic and social recovery would be impossibly daunting. In light of all the bad news about the economy, growing joblessness, the rising tide of foreclosures and the like, this a chilling reminder of what can happen - potentially to anyone. A combination of circumstances in a bad time can be what it takes.

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