It has been a while since the last post. I have been reading and thinking more than writing. Why? I want to make sure that my initial thoughts about working on this project are grounded in data, stories that can be shared, and filled with lessons to be learned.
Today I read the following article on www.msnbc.com, and felt it worthy of sharing. Click on the “more” after the opening sentence to read the full article.
LOS ANGELES — Skid Row resident Dadisi Komolafe points indignantly to the sign reading “Union Rescue Mission,” and grumbles that the name no longer fits since the shelter started charging for a nightly stay. More…
The article goes on to challenge the thought and theory on fully “free” support or other welfare programs. If the goal of a homeless shelter is to work towards helping to get people off the streets, then how is that done if those on the streets are not required to do anything differently to change their circumstances? If I show up and get “3 hots and a cot” day in, and day out, what would prompt me to do something different? Someone will always take care of me right?
The attitude of helplessness or complacency is only a small part. Many who are unfortunate, or live on the streets, may not have the means to change their situation. I get that. I realize that the world is a very cruel place and that having a safe haven and respite to seek shelter meets the basic needs of survival. We do need to be sure to help those who may be down on their luck or need assistance. I get it. My question is, “when is enough, enough?”
Here is an example that I have used many times before, but I think is fitting.
When my first-born son Garrett was young, we bought him shoes that did not have strings/laces but velcro. Each morning our daily routine was to get ready together and I was the daddy day care taxi. Each morning same routine. Clothes on, socks on, shoes on. If we were running late, I would help and put his shoes on. There were two problems with this process and routine that I learned a few years later.
1. I helped more than I empowered. Since I have never really been a morning person, 9 times out of 10, we were running behind schedule. So what would I do? I would put his shoes on for him. Taking away the opportunity for him to learn how to put his own shoes on. Dad did it for him because we, “had to go!”
2. Since the shoes were easier and faster to put on with velcro vs. shoe strings, my son started kindergarten and could not tie his own shoes. It was not until he was in 3rd or 4th grade that he could really tie his shoes well and on a consistent basis. No fault to his own, he just never had to change or do anything differently because he always had velcro shoes. The urgency or need was never present to have to learn to do something differently.
Fast forward to the story on charging $7 for an overnight stay at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles. If those who are using the services of the organization for a place to sleep, or “3 hots and a cot”, are never asked to do anything differently their behavior will not change.
I think there is a time to provide appropriate and adequate support. However, I think we need to think about how we enable and empower certain behaviors in others. Sometimes, just sometimes, we as human beings need to have a reality check and moment to drive us to do something differently. Would you agree? A shift in perspective is truly needed to change behavior. The key, and as is indicated in the article, are we willing?