Help Our Homeless
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The words 'gay', 'HIV' and 'homeless' struck a chord among many last week. Whether newsworthy or not, these particular terms have become popular buzzwords. Rising unemployment, soaring utility and food prices, the growing elderly population, teenage pregnancy, as well as community and family ostracism, all contribute to the increasing homeless population.
Homelessness is nothing new; however, the means through which attention is brought to this population requires a second look. Irrespective, of how an individual ended up on the streets is irrelevant. The outcome is the same: these persons lack shelter, food and clothing.
Ian McKnight, chairman of Jamaica Aids Support for Life, has called on the Government to provide for gay, homeless men in the New Kingston area. McKnight acknowledged that Government's potential involvement might be problematic among taxpayers.
I understand that marginalised groups like gay men tend to fall through the cracks; however, in order to garner the support of both the taxpayers and Government alike, the focus ought to be on trying to reduce the number of homeless persons.
Using emotive words in headlines encourages readers to deduce several possible scenarios, one being that men on the street are homeless because they are immoral and have rightly been disowned by their families and communities due to their sinful lifestyles.
How to gain support
This sort of thinking will yield little support from anybody, especially for a people whose religious disposition is largely Christian.
Instead of harping on some of the interpersonal aspects or alleged reasons that caused people to take up residence on the streets, we should prioritise reducing homelessness because it is essential to a country's development and standard of living.
The issue of homelessness ought not to fall on just one entity; it is a social responsibility not only of the Government, but also relatives, religious and service groups, and the private sector.
Stella Maris has a feeding programme where members of the congregation prepare a cooked meal and bottled water for street people in Cross Roads and downtown Kingston. While one meal a week is not nearly sufficient, this is a small example of how different members of the community can pitch in to help not 'the homeless' but 'OUR homeless'.
Over the last couple of months, the topic of homosexuality has risen again and again in the local media. There are cries for loving your gay relative, cries of abuse in the New Kingston area by homosexual men. Then there are alleged statistics speaking to homosexual lottery scammers.
Where does this all end, and why are the media houses giving so much time to these non-issues? In reality, if the police said that straight men are the main proponents of the lottery scam, would there be an outcry? Would we be offended if they said it was mainly Jamaicans?
Would the police seem foolish to make such a statement? If straight, homeless men ogle and harass female drivers at stop lights in the Corporate Area, is there a similar outcry? Would the newspapers publish such an article or the television stations carry such a story?
Why aren't the ads simply asking us to love our family? Are they less loved than the homeless kids on the streets? What makes homosexuals so special?
The fact of the matter is that heterosexuals do not go around complaining about everyday facts of life. Heterosexuals do not march on the road saying they are straight. Most crime towards homosexuals are by homosexuals. Other crimes towards homosexuals were just as likely to occur, regardless of sexual preference.
The media houses need to stop carrying these skewed stories and J-FLAG needs to 'straighten' its perspective.
Liguanea, St Andrew
Both letters speak for themselves, respond if you feel so moved.