Walking downtown during a Thursday Farmers Market, it is not uncommon to spot homeless people on the side of the street, oftentimes going completely unnoticed by crowds of people.
I have seen this firsthand, and in fact, I myself have passed by homeless people and actively avoided making eye contact, fearing such an action would obligate me to give them money and say “have a nice day.” Or perhaps on a deeper, subconscious level, I realize that making such eye contact would force me to confront the humanity behind this dehumanized subset of society.
Organizations like Transitions Mental Health Association and the Prado Day Center have been making tremendous progress at reducing homelessness in SLO county, but this alone isn’t enough. We as individuals mustn’t only provide shelter and food for these people, we must also shift how we view this group. When we see a homeless individual on the street we shouldn’t ignore them, but at the very least we ought to look them in the eye, smile and wish them well.
This small action will remind us that homeless people — individuals with stories and hopes and aspirations — share the characteristic that connects us all: humanity.
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Joel Fischinger, San Luis Obispo