On January 27, I emailed the Benicia_ City Council with my request to form a ”working group.”
I wanted this group to determine what part our City could play in the effort to eliminate homelessness.
Three days later, I found that Housing and Urban Development is funding and coordinating efforts to do just that.
It is curious to me, that in just six years, 1939 to 1945, our country went from an army of 200,000 to 12 million. In those six years we organized an industrial and technological effort of unprecedented scope. Atomic fission and atomic ‘fusion were made possible.
After an 8 year effort, we put a man on the moon. Around us today, in projects of smaller magnitude, we continue to devise ways to transport ourselves around the Bay Area. We are even reclaiming the San Francisco Bay Estuary. But we don’t seem to be able to reclaim the increasing number of damaged lives we see around us.
The lives of the homeless are the lives of those that have been separated from a home, from their family or from the possibility of a job. Our country’s history can be easily seen as the history of separation. The indigenous people of the Americas were separated from their land. Black people were separated from their country. When immigrants of all countries became soldiers, many joined the encampment at Hooverville. Sharecroppers left the Dust Bowl to find food lines in the cities.
It is true that many in our past have suffered far more than spending a night without shelter.
However, today’s homelessness is a manifestation of a separation that cuts too deep. We want to believe that we comfort ourselves by saying that the homeless are just like us. That is true but not in the way we like to think. All of us want to think that we have worked hard to earn what we have. It is also hard work to remain homeless. None ofus have given up hope. The homeless haven’t either. They have only surrendered the hope of living like we do.
At the end of the day, who is truly hopeless? Could it be the ones who have established a system that defeats the giving part of our own character? If the society we have created was one that reflected our desire to care for others, would anyone feel hopeless? Our nation isn’t a melting pot. It is an alloy made stronger by the best part of each of us. I am certain that each one of us will recognize the most powerful part of our own character and begin to close the divisions that have arisen between us.
Homelessness will not vanish even if it’s hidden by another program or presented with another challenge. It will only disappear when we change ourselves. It only will cease to exist when we understand that all of us are truly are the same. That is on the day when we all have the same hope.
The hope that we can all be civil and that that civility becomes the generosity we give to each other.
Will Emes Jr.