Christmas Eve, Washington D.C. Raw, wet wind sweeps across the silent city, creating a sense of imminent snow that for those sitting in front of their stockings, fire blazing and drink in hand, is a blessing. But not all. Not for the family huddled under the flickering street light, not for the veteran curled up under the bridge, and not for the little boy who knows his only present will be the church handout tomorrow morning. For them, for all those who don’t have a home, their life can be more akin to an existence; a timeless cycle of surviving until the next morning rather than truly living. But why? Why should these people have to worry about whether they’ll get a meal today, when we, their neighbors and their countrymen, complain about things as inconsequential as getting a bad haircut? There is no great answer to that, but there is a way to help: assist them in getting a job.
So, why a job? Why not the typical sandwich making in the park? Well, as one writer from InvisiblePEOPLE puts it bluntly, “sandwiches are not enough.” And that’s the truth. When food is handed out in the park, it only fixes a short-term problem. Those people are still homeless. When someone is able to survive on these free meals, sometimes even from a dozen groups a day, they often have little motivation to seek a lasting solution. This only adds to the cycle of simply surviving until the next day. However, this is exactly why having a job is so crucial. It enables someone who normally has to rely on others to be self sufficient. It enables someone who normally gets a single meal, to get many meals. It enables someone without a home to get a home.
But what I believe to be the most important reason for the homeless to get a job is that just like the rest of us, just like you and me, they deserve dignity. And a job does that. I feel that often, sadly, when we see people sitting out on the streets we fail to see them as members of our society. But I don’t think anyone deserves to have sleep on a park bench, to have to wake up in the morning shivering, blanket frozen to their body. I don’t think anyone deserves to not get the dignity that makes us who we are. Handouts give people the ability to survive, and that shouldn’t be underestimated, but jobs give the dignity that is quintessential to our being human. Because that is what we are: humans. And we’re in this together.
If you would like to help, please consider donating to “Jobs Have Priority”