There is a continuing discussion regarding bringing food to people living on our streets and in parks. The concern is if we provide food and accommodations then they will be less inclined to find permanent solutions. There is also the concern of sanitation and disruptive behavior associated with where they gather. Providing food and accommodations encourages people to remain where they are.
When we think of the homeless this is the usual image we have; dirty gatherings where thrash and garbage bags are scattered. Or someone next to a sidewalk their belongings piled next to them and in grocery carts. They stand at intersections on median strips with signs scratched out on cardboard. In the city of San Jose, on the nights of January 24 and 25, 2017 there were 4.350 people who were counted as homeless 74 percent were unsheltered.
Nearly half of San Jose State university students live with food insecurity. There are young families living in cars that are parked in safe zones. Often classmates are unaware of the uncertainties of shelter and food that other students face.
In November 2016 residents of Santa Clara County passed Measure A, a $950 million affordable housing bond. Its aim is to make available 5,100 affordable housing units. It is a huge project. Even with nearly a billion dollars committed and over 5,000 units planned homelessness will continue until the causes of homelessness are resolved.
It’s not just here in the Bay Area. In the US Housing and Urban Development “2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress found that 553,742 persons experienced homelessness on a single night in 2017, an increase of .7 percent since last year.”
Homelessness may be the result of poverty, lack of affordable housing, mental health issues, low wages. While public officials and community leaders work to resolve the causes of homelessness, people continue to live in shelters and outdoors. They continue to face food insecurity and the uncertainties of safe shelter. They will continue to need health care and a place to do laundry and bathe.
We can help. We can debate how to help but we should find ways to help. The Betsuin has several programs that provide support. Preparing meals for a shelter or sorting food at the foodbank or volunteering at a community center. By collecting supplies like shampoo, soaps and toothpaste. The sock drive was a great success. There are other on going projects like the Dana Project and Dana Club. Sangha Support has programs that are internal to the Betsuin but also support programs like the Linus Project.
We are engaged with our communities and we should continue to be engaged. We may choose to go to St James Park with food for the hungry or contribute the San Jose State Food Shelf program. Volunteer through your work place. Many companies encourage community service. There are many opportunities to help others.
How we practice kindness sometimes is an issue that we debate. Do we practice kindness selflessly? Is our ego involved with what we do? These kinds of questions are probably only important to me. If I give a sandwich to a hungry person I don’t think that person would refuse because my ego was involved. Just do what you can it will make a difference.