Just the other night, my mother and I were walking to our car in a parking lot. A young, twenty-something, homeless (however, reasonably put together) black man, approached us. He explained to us that he had spent the evening sitting in the police station (why, I don’t know) and was then planning on walking quite a ways to a shelter. The next thing he said really stuck with me. He told us that as he was leaving the station, he asked if someone could get him a sandwich or help him get something to eat. Obviously since we came across him later on in a parking lot asking strangers for food or change, no one had helped him out.
I can’t say I’m surprised at all by any part of this interaction really, but it’s pretty unsettling to me that the Suburban cops where I live (who have very little serious crime to deal with) wouldn’t help someone whose going hungry. This got me thinking. Who is looking out for a guy like him? Definitely not the cops. But then what about the politicians? Well probably not them either. Someone looking for food from strangers is not likely to make it to the polls on election day. And homeless people have a really hard time even getting registered to vote since they do not have permanent addresses. Like prisoners and many ex-felons, they are basically left out of the election process.
There are millions of homeless Americans, a large percentage of them Black Americans and a surprisingly high number of that group are youth. So, when we talk about Black youth we have to talk about them too. But mostly we don’t. Most people today think of Black politics and they think of brown-skinned Harvard trained President. But for me the real challenge for politicians and political activists has to be the Black (and White) youth who don’t vote, who cannot vote, but who desperately need representation and help and compassion.
We gave the young homeless man a few bucks and he headed straight to the fast food restaurant across the street for a late and unhealthy dinner. That was our quick cheap response to his difficult situation. Surely well-paid and well-educated politicians with lots of resources can do better than that. Are voters in the upcoming midterm elections going to demand that they do? I hope so.