I can assure you that despite the title, this thread is not about a new daytime soap opera.
This is a subject a friend and I were discussing quite recently and it seems that we had slightly differing views on all the points that were brought up during the conversation. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how this issue actually sparked a good discussion, despite it not affecting our lives at all, so I thought I'd bring it onto the forum.
First and foremost an explanation of the thread title. Back in school in my religion class (Yes, I'm a private catholic schoolboy. Don't ask.) we did a unit of work on this topic. I found it interesting how my teacher defined a clear difference between being "houseless" and being "homeless". She said the former was merely someone who was without a shelter, a place to stay, yet had everything else that could constitute a "home", thus separating them from truly homeless people. That further sparked the question of what turns a house into a home, and what is the dividing factor between the houseless and the homeless.
The best answer I've ever received is that your family, friends and those whom you share your life with on a personal level are what make a place "home". As long as you have loved ones who'll welcome and accept you no matter what, you'll always have a home. You may one day be houseless, but that certainly doesn't make you homeless. You can live in any house/apartment, but that is just your residence - what really makes it your home is when you come back from a long day to someone who genuinely cares about how your day went. Much in the same way, those who are displaced by natural disasters, war or governmental tyranny may indefinitely lose their house, but they don't lose their home.
You have to really wonder how people get to the stage where they are completely homeless. How did they lose their friends, their family, everyone in their life that loved them or cared for them? It's quite a disturbing fact that there are some people out there who quite literally have no one else that cares for them. Without that sort of support in their life, it's amazing to think they continue to live on, taking each day as it comes. Perhaps some of them are mentally handicapped, whilst other have just become numb to the whole situation. Maybe it's just me, but if I lost my family and friends, I would seriously bring into question why I was still living. But for these folks who are living in this manner, I can only sit and ponder how they see each day through and the reasons why they press on in life.
Just like any other person, you won't ever know them personally unless you spend the time with them which is something not many people are willing to do. I know I don't and I don't have much empathy or compassion for them, but I try not to judge as I have no idea as to the reasons why they are in that position in life. When you look at people on the street, what are your initial thoughts of them? I sometimes wonder why they don't get up and do something about their predicament, but I usually retract any thoughts like that as I realise that I shouldn't judge them since I don't know them at all. I don't know their history or why they are in that position, for all I know it could be a very legitimate reason.
In saying that, another friend of mine propositioned me with a hypothetical scenario. Let's say I were dropped into a country where I didn't speak the language, didn't know anyone, only had the clothes on my back, no passport or ID, couldn't contact anyone back home and only had just enough money to last me a week at most. If my friend left me there and came back a year later, what would he find? The point of this question was to place me in a similar position to a homeless person. I must admit, it was actually quite a difficult hypothetical to answer as I had to evaluate my own self and determine just how I would react to such a situation. But it also showed me that it may not necessarily be my fault that I'm in that position, much in the same way a homeless person is not at fault for their predicament.
Beggars I am tolerable of, provided they aren't in my face about it, but I never give them anything. However, I do recognise them as another human being and if they do ask me for something, I at the very least acknowledge their humanity and politely tell them "No, sorry". I'm just the type of person who if someone says "Hi" to me, no matter my opinion of them, how much I loath them nor how much I am disgusted by them, I will always say "Hello" back. However, the point that was brought up was adding in the "Sorry" part when telling a beggar to go away.
Should you say "Sorry" to a beggar when you reject their request for some money? My argument is that I'm insincere enough that the "Sorry" is a superfluous comment. Like I mentioned above, I acknowledge a person's humanity, but I reserve no room for them emotionally. However, the counter-point I was presented with is, "Does a person have the right to an apology when asking a complete stranger for something he/she didn't earn?"
Following on the hypothetical scenario I was propositioned with before, that same friend asked me another question. If you gave a homeless person a large sum of money, what do you believe they would do with it. I felt they would blow it all on useless material wealth and not to get themselves established in life again. Why? Because I don't believe people should just be handed things like that on a silver platter. It's too much of a temptation and by accepting something like that you don't learn anything and eventually you'll find yourself back where you started.
That point alone really ties back into what my friend was saying about not giving money to homeless people because they haven't earned it. They don't learn anything when you just give them stuff. But conversely, how can you prove that they haven't tried to work their way out of their predicament? It's a really thought-provoking issue when you think about it, as there are two completely opposite, but both legitimate sides to the problem.