“SMELLY, grimy winos—no property, no identity, nothing!” That is a startling stereotype, but according to volunteers who work with the homeless in Czestochowa, Poland, that is just how people commonly view those who have no roof over their head.
According to a report in The Economist a few years ago, beneath the streets of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, many of the city’s thousands of street children were living in fetid passages that led to the sewers or to the city’s heating system. Though shocked to learn of these homeless children, many Mongolians concluded that the situation arose “because people are too lazy to look after their children,” the journal noted.
On the other side of the world, street children are slaughtered by death squads of self-proclaimed vigilantes. Why? A United Nations publication explained: “In Latin America many people in the judiciary, the police, the media, business, and society in general believe that street children represent a moral threat to a civilised society.” The same source noted: “An average of three street children are reportedly killed every day in the state of Rio de Janeiro.”
Homeless people “trigger fear and uneasiness in us . . . , but they are humans who feel pangs of hunger just as we do. There are many of them, and they have a real need.” So says a Web page created by volunteers who work with the homeless in Czestochowa. The same source adds: “We hope that . . . there will be people who respond to this great need.” What exactly is the need, and how great is it?