HOW WE LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS…


“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.  Recognize it?  It’s the Second Commandment.

Americans have always considered themselves to be decent people who do the decent and honest thing.  We send our soldiers to defend the freedom and rights of others. We have worked to feed the world’s poor and hungry, in the name of common decency.  Yet, common decency no longer seems to apply, when it comes to our fellow Americans.  In some cases, we have even passed laws making it a crime to feed the hungry. When did we become so jaded?  

I just read an article on CNN about Arnold Abbott, a 90 year old man who has been feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for more than two decades, through his non-profit advocacy group (Love Thy Neighbor).  He was able to feed four people before he was arrested, along with two Christian pastors.  Their crime carries a sentence that includes jail time and a $500.00 fine.

According to NBC News a Florida couple, Debbie and Chico Jimenez, were cited, along with four friends, for serving home cooked hot meals to the homeless, every Wednesday for over a year in Daytona Beach.  The six were fined more than $2,000 for their acts of kindness and charity. They refused to pay and the fines were dismissed.  “The reason these laws are growing across the country is that not enough people are standing up for their God-given rights,” Chico Jimenez said. “And we have a right. We can feed anybody without the law stepping in.”

21 cities have enacted measures to limit feeding homeless people since January of last year, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) survey.  Who are these people that the good citizens of these communities have decided do not deserve to be fed? A great number of them are veterans.  They are veterans who have served this country in every war from WWII to today.  Two thirds of them served at least three years, and one third in war zones.

Although exact counts are difficult because of the transient nature of most homeless, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates  49,933 veterans are homeless on any given night; with an estimate of about 1.4 million other veterans are at risk of homelessness.

Here are some statistics you might find to be of interest.

DEMOGRAPHICS OF HOMELESS VETERANS

  • 12% of the homeless adult population are veterans
  • 20% of the male homeless population are veterans
  • 68% reside in principal cities
  • 32% reside in suburban/rural areas
  • 51% of individual homeless veterans have disabilities
  • 50% have serious mental illness
  • 70% have substance abuse problems
  • 51% are white males, compared to 38% of non-veterans
  • 50% are age 51 or older, compared to 19% non-veterans

According to a more recent HUD report, on a single night in January 2013, there were 57,849 homeless veterans in the United States, with 60 percent (34,694) in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, or safe havens, and 40 percent (23,154) in unsheltered locations; and a little under 8 percent of homeless veterans are female (4,456).

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word ‘Charity’ in the following terms:

  • Benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity,
  • Generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also:  aid given to those in need,
  • An institution engaged in relief of the poor,
  • Public provision for the relief of the needy,
  • A gift for public benevolent purposes,
  • An institution (as a hospital) founded by such a gift,
  • And lenient judgment of others.

 The America I grew up in took pride in such virtues as feeding the hungry.  What happened?  How can these new laws be justified, especially when so many of our homeless are veterans who put their lives on the line to serve this county?  How can these city governments justify passing laws that punish their citizens for having the decency to be compassionate towards those who, for whatever reason, are in need?  It is a disgrace that the citizens of these cities allow their elected officials to pass these laws.

Shame, America, shame.

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