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24 April 2014

Help the homeless by listening

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Self-achievement and satisfaction reign high in our society. Our college life is paved with dreams for “better future.” We utter the words I want … ” frequently in our daily conversations.

Yet, “I don’t believe in the future” were the words he repeated throughout our conversation in that deep night. Sadly, such words resound also from others like him in the shadows of blinding city lights.

I met Brian during an outreach service to Homeless Voice, a homeless shelter in Florida through University of Miami Alternative Breaks. After losing his job, Brian, diagnosed with diabetes eight years ago, survives in a railroad station with other homeless people in a warehouse, sharing blankets and water. He lost his insurance and is in danger of amputating his arm. He struggles to maintain his mental and physical well-being just as several homeless people do.

In this world that esteems individual’s efforts and accomplishments, we usually presume that homeless people fall into the pit of poverty merely because of a lack of effort.

Nevertheless, my interaction with the residents of Homeless Voice revealed that their cause lies in domestic violence, mental illnesses and, mainly, loss of family support. Thrust into the streets without an uplifting hand, they are left to fend for themselves and their children.

They are stripped of primary health requirements, beginning with emotional health such as familial love, being listened to and cared about. As each strand of lifeline from society and family breaks, they follow their cry: “Desperate people do desperate things.”

In our fast-paced and individualistic society, we unknowingly form, and live within, our own bubble. Yet, no man is an island. We cannot let our leading drive for self-accomplishment block us from reaching out to those struggling in the shadows of a light.

As university students, we easily become engrossed in our books and college life and feel that we can accomplish things only after gaining a solid education. Though true, great things are accomplished over time. The path of a hundred miles begins with a simple step.

A step to help out the homeless could be simply listening to their silent cries. Taking some time to listen to Ramona, another affected resident, during my service trip to Homeless Voice, has turned out a precious gift of life to her. She thankfully repeated, “You guys helped me more than I helped you.”

Kagiso Samuel is a junior majoring in neuroscience.