Homeless People Deserve Empathy

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It seems the most controversial topic for the Salt Lake area lately has been the homeless shelter move. There have been many places politicians have wanted to move the shelter, and everywhere they go, people protest and the idea goes to a different city. The most disturbing recent news was in the city of Draper.

Over 1,000 Draper residents attended a four hour long meeting a few weeks ago after hearing their mayor, Troy Walker, state he wanted to bring two homeless shelters to their city. Their complaints were very audible, consisting largely of boos and protests.

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, a homeless man named Lawrence Horman came to speak to the crowd. He lives in a shipping yard. As he began to speak to the Draper citizens, he was booed by the audience.

“We’ll help ourselves if you give us a place to start from,” Horman told The Salt Lake Tribune. In the end, Draper got their way, and Walker pulled the idea.

Now my question is, when did people begin to not view other people as human beings? I know other cities have turned down this proposal, but the way Draper citizens handled this was absolutely disgusting. To actually “boo” a homeless man asking for help is the epitome of disgrace. The people who joined that action should feel absolutely ashamed of themselves.

I’ve written many articles on how, in my opinion, many Americans have lacked empathy toward others. This case is, yet again, the same thing. Has it occurred to the people ‘booing’ that if we help the homeless, there will be less homeless in our state? What about the veterans we have here who are homeless? Did it occur to Draper residents that many of these homeless people have actually fought for their right to protest? In fact, a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development shows about 290 veterans are homeless in Salt Lake. I doubt the patrons saying such cruel things about homeless people know that fact. If they do, I find them even more deplorable.

The fact is, homelessness has grown to be an epidemic in the United States. According to academia.edu, within the highest 15 cities with the highest rates of homelessness, six of those cities are in America. In other sources I found, three to seven of those cities are in America. What a sad statistic. We, as Americans, still seem to have such a lack of empathy for these people.

Many homeless people come from backgrounds of hardship and despair. Many teens are runaways from abusive homes, some have lost their jobs and then home and again, many are veterans. The truth is, we don’t know any of their stories unless we take the time to ask (which my guess is the many privileged people of Draper have not). I understand the concerns that come with having a homeless shelter in your community. I live in Salt Lake City, where homelessness is very high. But if people took as much energy as they have fighting this project and turned it toward helping these people, we wouldn’t have as many concerns. Rehabilitation should be our focus, not hatred. Helping these people get jobs and get back on their feet should be something we all want. Being kind is something we should all strive for.

Homeless people are, in fact, human beings. We should recognize our own privilege and help when we can. If we have concerns we should make them in a respectful way, and not spew hate. Empathy is such an important trait to learn. If you see a person in a troubled spot, think of them as being one of your family members or friends, and then tell me you wouldn’t hope others would help them.

letters@dailyutahchronicle.com

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