It all started in the 1980s, during the Presidency of Saint Ronald Reagan. Almost overnight, the homeless began appearing in the streets. Over the last thirty years, their numbers have increased to the point that I cannot step out for lunch without getting at least three solicitations for spare change. When I drive home on Ohio Avenue, the bridge under the I-405 is full of tents and cardboard “forts” covered with tarpaulins.
In Matthew 5:14, Christ says, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Reagan and other Republicans have been fond of seeing the United States in this light. Sometimes I wonder what foreign tourists think when they see raggedy men and women sprawled on the sidewalks and living under bridges. In my travels, I did not see such sights, not even in supposedly Third World countries such as Peru, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile.
For whatever reason, our “city that is set on a hill” has become a festering garbage dump. Even in rural America, crystal meth, opiates, and alcohol have stranded untold thousands wandering the streets in search of a meal or a place to crash. Across the street from where I live, people appearing to be homeless have their own cigarettes and cell phones and are, I suspect, dealing in drugs—especially when they make an appearance at their “corner” only intermittently.
As much as I want to help them, I know that my best bet is to help the Salvation Army and the local rescue missions. They can weed out the clearly unworthy more readily than I can. But what of the mentally ill? It seems that they form more than half of the local homeless population. I get this feeling of hopelessness whenever I think of them.