Homeless 'look' is poverty, not depravity

Lopsided recent media focus on that "out-caste" of Medford's citizenry who are collectively called by the media-coined word "homeless" seems to convey a presumption that the homeless are, all-inclusively, a dangerous lot of degenerate louts who are, without exception, dope-addicted, alcoholic felons — ex-convicts and the like who endanger you, your family, your neighborhood and friends, as well as society as a whole. Some are; most are not. So, I do beg your pardon, quite far short of licking the boots which are a-kicking me!

Alas, there is, in fact, a certain "look" that is common among those who are without facilities to attend properly to personal hygiene. This "look" is the face of devastating impoverishment, not of criminality, nor does it show depravity.

Perhaps you may be more moved to sympathy than disgust to think of the person you see next as unwashed rather than as unworthy. I, all too often, have that look and it is acutely humiliating, not something I choose.

Nor do I wish to offend; I am a poor man, a survivor of an amputation, of a total of mare than 30 surgeries, which left me with two of my three remaining limbs not reliably functional. My income, like that of many homeless citizens, is insufficient for rent and life's necessities.

The overburdened social welfare "safety net" consists of waiting lists of many, many other waiting lists for public assistance, most of which average over a year's wait for eligibility! Thus, the "look" of desperation, hunger, deprivation and unwashed tatters — the "why" that I and others are so ragged and unlaundered of attire. That's due to my lack of resources, not of self-respect, nor of common decency — acknowledging of course that, yes, there are also, at the rock-bottom of the economic ladder, those who indeed are predatory and a danger to society as a whole. Alas, the streets are a dump for human wastage.

Looks aside, as alike as the "look" may be, a huge percentage of the ailing and afflicted, crippled, lame and chronically disabled do have decency. I lost all and wound up on the streets, coming from the same mainstream as you. My moral standards are little different from the mainstream from which such as I came, that same mainstream as you call your own.

I write not for your pity, but to clarify for the sake of understanding. I am not alone; I am far from the sole unfortunate in Medford to fall through the mile-wide cracks in the so-called "safety net." I write not to elicit pity, but to say I have not earned your disdain, your loathing, nor your fear and distrust — and others there are who are in the same unattractive circumstances.

So, I and others struggle from the streets to earn a way back to the mainstream. It is quite, quite dangerous, too, for the likes of me, seemingly weak and easy prey for the truly predatory and dangerous addicts and violent, vile drunks and felonious madmen who seek targets of convenience. I walk on my single leg and a prosthesis, placing my faith in Almighty God and writing this to appeal for fairness from the good and fair folks who make Medford so stellar a community of quailty; good folks, like you, abound, thank God.

Thank you all, too, for reading along with my rambling thoughts; thoughts which I have pondered long, since misfortune befell me and wound me up homeless, hungry and in tatters — but far from becoming a thief or predator. I've no stomach for such, anyway, and the struggle to maintain some claim on decency is all I can be about; with the help of God, I will make my way back to the mainstream, along with so many others whom you may look at or right through and never "see."

In summation, media focus has fallen short. The people of Medford are deserving of balanced reportage and it is my hope to see this balance come about sooner rather than later. Good citizens deserve good news reporting. The Mail Tribune is the good paper to begin telling it like it is and separating the wheat from the chaff, in the interest of public information and to promote public safety more realistically.

A bath; a meal; a bed and clean attire; employment at a living wage — all citizens share commonalities to which all have the right to be informed of in our local press.

Phillip R. Personette lives in Medford.

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