No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Morality and Homelessness, The Bitter Truth

“in a shocking burst of violence that darkened the start of the holiday week, five people were stabbed — two fatally — at a downtown church [san jose grace baptist church] sunday as it welcomed homeless people inside for the night to escape the cold.” mercury news

as someone who lives in america’s homeless capital, there was nothing shocking about this story. i am all too aware of violence involving the homeless.

it is important to take the time to analyze what happened rather than a mere reporting.

first, the term homeless is an unfair label.

there are homeless who have had financial set backs, loss of job, deteriorating health conditions, a living situation that terminated, that have forced them on the street.

there are homeless who are individuals who act like children with opposition defiant disorder. they refuse to accept rules from others. there are a number of them who had a living situation but their actions and refusal to accept authority caused them to lose it.

there are homeless who have substance abuse problems. there are homeless with either untreated or treated mental conditions.” substance abuse problems can lead to them choosing homelessness over housing. they would rather spend their money on drugs and alcohol rather than housing. further, the substance abuse can be so profound that it can impact their moral compass. it has been found that “substance abuse is much more common among homeless people than in the general population.” national coalition for the homeless. 16 percent conditions related to chronic substance abuse, national alliance

there are homeless with mental illness. in one report, 20 percent of the homeless population reported having a serious mental illness. national alliance while mental illness itself may not be a problem if it is treated, untreated mental illness can result and dangerous conduct. these individuals at times can act morally and in other times not. in those instances, they may not be able to think on a moral basis due to their condition.

this begs the question as to what happened at that church. what type of person was the alleged murderer? in the incident, the alleged perpetrator “was one of the homeless people who frequented the church” and “he was upbeat and laughing when she[a witness] left sunday. the man didn’t have a reputation for violence.” mercury news we do not know the motivation. was it defiance? was it mental illness? was it substance abuse?

should these programs do triage before taking in individuals? if you had homeless understood and were capable of moral behavior, you could fill up a church with no problem. when you take in the whole lot, it is a recipe for disaster.

is there a moral problem among homeless? in writing this article, i was not able to find any study. in my personal and professional experience, i found that many homeless individuals do not want to follow rules. as a result, some refuse to accept housing that is conditioned on adherence to rules. substance use also plays a role. in my personal experience, i have seen individuals who have chosen drugs and alcohol over housing.

what happened at the church? i have no idea. did they screen the individuals? did they set rules for those using the facility? did they screen the individuals for weapons?

in the incident, the alleged perpetrator “was one of the homeless people who frequented the church” and “he was upbeat and laughing when she[a witness] left sunday. the man didn’t have a reputation for violence.” mercury news

the intent of taking in the homeless was to “[u]nhoused individuals were brought into the church to get them out of the cold.” mercury news

the pastor stated ““i do want to say, this is what faith is all about. faith is risking it all. we risk knowing both the rewards and the reality that there will be problems, pain, and conflict. we are called to this radical hospitality for those who need it the most. this is our call, our purpose, our mission, and the way we love jesus,” robinson said. mercury news

he added “[w]e will continue to advocate for better mental health and substance use.” mercury news

is there a lesson to be learned from this event? yes. mental health and substance use issues need to be addressed by professionals. homeless people are not one homogeneous group. they range from law abiding to dangerous to others. placing them all in the same living quarters is not advisable.

those operating voluntary facilities should be trained by professionals to triage individuals. their may be some individuals for which their setting may not be appropriate. they should have access to other resources to direct those individuals who are not appropriate.

good deed. good intentions. two dead bodies.

god bless them for what they were trying to do.

when one opens ones heart the help others, it also requires one to open their mind as well. hopefully, moving forward, the church can continue to provide services to the homeless in a more thoughtful way.

be well!


Published by biblelifestudies

I am a practicing lawyer and long term admirer of the bible

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