Walking home today I was approached by five different panhandlers. I found myself increasingly frustrated with my inability to help in a lasting way. The best thing I could do is to help these men and women to connect with social workers and organizations who could help them access Social Services, psychologists, and employment programs. I have tried this before but have been met with disinterest and/or hostility. I do not find fault or blame in these reactions...the sources are more varied than I could probably describe: anything from paranoia to illiteracy to a deep-seated feeling of helplessness and despair.
I am not sure what the answer is, but one thing I know is that with the proper care from the government, many of these people could change their lives around. And to those with eyes on the bottom line, this means that a minimal investment from the government could translate into a member of society who contributes - at the least - on a tax-paying level.
It seems incredible to me that in a province as wealthy as Alberta that we do not have a system set up for helping people on the streets find work and shelter in a more active and participatory manner. I would guess that the majority of our homeless have mental illnesses. Consistent and proper medication would help them so much, it is hard to believe that they have to suffer needlessly.
The real problem is that even with the meager systems we have in place, the people who need to access them the most have no idea these programs exist or even how to access them.
What kind of communities do we live in when we cannot share the wealth and time we have been so blessed with in order to help the least fortunate among us? I'm not preaching or accusing, I'm simply amazed.
In the end, I find almost everyone has a good heart. Maybe all we have to do is let our hearts lead us in a human direction.