Friday, November 20, 2015
The Homeless Vets Argument
I might step on some toes here. I'm not calling out anyone in particular. I've seen the "Homeless Vets" argument again & again on social media. And trust me, I wholeheartedly believe we should help homeless veterans. I often find myself sitting across from a veteran when I'm volunteering at our local day center for people experiencing homelessness right here in my city.
But here's the problem with the argument: Unless you are one of the few who are already actually working to help homeless veterans, this argument falls really flat. Intended or not, this is a distraction tactic. Life is complicated, economics are complicated. We can, in fact, help both homeless veterans AND continue to accept the 10,000 refugees from Syria that our country had pledged to accept. (Side note: there are an estimated 3 million refugees... the US pledged to accept 0.3% of them. France, by comparison, is about the size of Texas and has just increased their pledge from 24,000 to 30,000. Just so you know.)
Why can do we both? Because right now, this is a made-up issue. There is no organization saying, "Hmmm... should we help refugees OR should we house homeless vets? What to do? What to do?" There's no government committee right now agonizing over a decision, or even being forced to choose between those two groups of people. The tension between refugees and homeless veterans exists NOWHERE outside of Facebook right now. The reality now is that we do need help with better programming and resources for homeless veterans AND we also should be part of what's going on in the world and do our part to help refugees. Because we would hope that other countries would help us, should we ever need to flee our country, right?
In addition, this sentiment places value on American lives over the lives of those born elsewhere. Maybe you are okay with that. I'm not. And, I'm speaking to Christians here: God clearly doesn't do that. Our Bible never says, "America first!" Nowhere. The message of Jesus was never "Take care of you & your own first, then consider others." It's just not there. I've looked.
But guess what. If YOU want to choose, you can! Want to do more? Here you go:
Are you concerned about our veterans who are currently experiencing homelessness? I am SO glad. Go get involved. Did you know there is a staff member at the Interactive Resource Center here in Greensboro dedicated to working with our veterans? Call him up & see how you could help. Maybe the gift you want to give someone for Christmas is a donation (or even better, a recurring donation) to help our homeless veterans or to eradicate homelessness in general. They sorely need it. Check out http://gsodaycenter.org/.
Or maybe you are an advocate - get involved in the cause and connect with the VA here to see what they are working on to help end homelessness for our veterans: http://www.va.gov/homeless/.
Are you wanting to be more involved with refugees? Let me tell you, the organizations working with refugees need some serious support right now. They are fighting crazy amounts of misinformation (tossed out by some of our trusted elected officials, sadly), they are dealing with threats, they are comforting refugees who are already here who have been targeted in the past week. If you live locally, go check out World Relief of High Point, Church World Service, and North Carolina African Services Coalition.
You can advocate for Syrian refugees as well - tell Congress to welcome them here: http://bit.ly/1WZxoqB.
There are so many ways to get involved and be of service. I promise you, any hour you spend helping your fellow man (or woman!), is an hour well-spent. I have yet to regret any minute of time I've spent voluntering, even on the frustrating days.
And if you aren't going to do either of those things, please at least educate yourself on the topic. Most of us know nothing about refugees, or asylum seekers, or even the reality of homelessness for our veterans right now. I get it - it's easy to share a photo or a meme or a link. But it really helps if you get the facts straight first.
Here's a link to an admittedly very long Facebook post from World Relief of High Point. Please take the five minutes it would take you to read it. It will make your life better than a puppy video, I promise:
So let's do this, folks! Go DO something. Help out our homeless veterans - they need you to stand with them. Help our refugees - they are citizens of the very same world we live in. Go be the change, my friends. We can do hard things.