Friday, November 27, 2009

Homes for the Homeless

Homes for the homeless

Anyone ever considered how simple it would be to provide thousands of realistic homes for the homeless? Take a look around you at all the huge highway and Interstate construction projects with many of the overpasses being five to ten feet off the ground. It appears to the folks without a lot of information about how the homeless live that the homeless go about looking for places to stay that are out of the wind in the winter and out of the sun in the summer. Seems reasonable to me.

Can you visualize areas under all of these overpasses separated into rooms without doors that would be a great place for the homeless to crash? It really seems too simplistic but in real life, the homeless do NOT want to go "home". They want a little nook or cranny that they can call their own with a few "amenities" (like cardboard to help keep warm) that will see them through another night. They don't look very far ahead you know. They're just concerned about where they are going to sleep for the night, whether their stomach is going to growl at them because they haven't eaten today and where they are going to go to the bathroom. These appear to be the top priorities to a homeless person.

It seems as though well-meaning people like those associated with Habitat International and other organizations of the same type are bound and determined to fit the square-peg homeless person into their round-hole mentality. It's a direct failure of the whole procedure to think you can take someone who has abandoned your values and force them to accept it by moving into what YOU think is a nice house. You must forget this because they don't want a nice house - they want a place to crash for the night that is out of the wind, rain and cold, nothing more.

There have been numerous studies as to why there are so many homeless people. In 80 percent of the cases it's by choice folks! These people have dropped out of society and want nothing more than to be left alone. Numerous studies have apparently shown that when you take a homeless person and set them up in a decent apartment or home and provide them with enough food and utilities they'll take it and when everything runs out they go back on the street again.

Remember what it was like to be a kid? No responsibilities, no worries except those created by the authorities (mostly parents) about what the kids "have to do" tomorrow, next week, next year and so on. Many homeless find the life satisfying inasmuch as they don't have to obey anyone. As long as they are unobtrusive and don't break any major laws, they are generally left alone. The really creative ones end up making quite a lifestyle for themselves that doesn't cost very much but provides them and a few hangers on with an existence that is better than the rat race they abandoned when they quit society.

A series of small rooms constructed by volunteers using contributions of old used plywood under a highway overpass would go a long way to get the homeless off the street, get them out of the weather and provide a ready made roof over there heads. It would also provide a place where social services could be provided for them on a bare necessity level. For example, many illnesses that become an epidemic start in the world of the homeless. They don't seek medical help because they don't want to be thrust into society's limelight. Besides, they don't have the means. How easy would it be to provide drinking water from cisterns that caught rainwater? Where do you think they are getting drinking water now?

Keeping the crime down would be fairly simple as there would not be too many volunteers required to look out for one area suitable for a hundred people. The ones that migrate there could be examined for psychological problems without intruding on their idea of homeless "society" and some help could be provided for the ones that want it. The main thing to remember is that you cannot save them all! You'll be lucky if you can save a few. Isn't that worth the effort?

Consider the fact that a great number of people living the life of a responsible adult often yearn for the days when all they had to worry about was homework and whether another pimple was going to break out on their face. I realize that it was very important then but now, it seems almost idyllic that you should have so little to worry about. Have you considered the fact that this great country of ours was settled over many years by a lot of homeless people? Perhaps you can add your thoughts on this article to make it more of a reality. How about it?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lincoln's Other Mary

One day in the mid-1980's, I got a phone call from a gentleman in Michigan who identified himself as David Owens. Turned out that not only was he a genealogist studying and documenting the Owens clan back into the 1700's, he was also a professional musician with a band of his own (the genes do show up, don't they?). He wanted to know what had happened to my Dad's father after he left Harvard. At that time, I had no earthly idea that my grandfather had attended, much less graduated from Harvard University.

Seems as though my grandfather, Jessie Vinyard Owens, wanted to be a school superintendent and went to Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska for that specific degree. That's where my father was born. I knew that they had moved to Butte, Montana where "Bapu", his nickname, took over the school system there. During this conversation David mentioned that my grandfather's aunt was once engaged to Abraham Lincoln. I remember saying "No way! You're pulling my leg!" and he said that it was true and was documented in the book "Lincoln's other Mary". I told him I would get the book and check it out. And he was right, the book exists and it does tell quite a story.

Seems as though my great-aunt, Mary Owens, lived on a big plantation in Lexington, Kentucky in the early 1800's along with her sister and brother and perhaps other siblings. Her father was very wealthy and owned hundreds of slaves, a mark of great wealth in those days. Her sister got married and moved to Springfield, Illinois. Her sister kept writing to Mary asking her to come visit since she missed her very much. Finally, Mary got the trip organized and took the long trip by horse and buggy to Springfield. While she was there she was introduced to this attorney who was poor as a church mouse but they hit it off immediately. Mary went home and made other trips to Springfield and on the last one, this attorney asked her to marry him. She told him that she was very fond of him but would have to think about it.

Mary went back to Lexington and pondered the whole deal for a few weeks and finally wrote to the attorney and turned him down. It was Abraham Lincoln. He finally married the "other" Mary. Mary Owens eventually married a man by the name of Jessie Vinyard. Her brother, Robert Owens, apparently thought so highly of Mary's husband that he named one of his boys Jessie Vinyard Owens, my grandfather.

So I have encouraged my children and grandchildren to always tell people that one of their relatives jilted Abraham Lincoln. It's a really good, true story for cocktail parties!