A large majority of these individuals are homeless. Many suffer from chronic diseases both mental and physical. Most have few saleable skills. A substantial number are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and many have criminal records. One could spend a great deal of time debating how and why these individuals are in their current state, but assigning blame is a useless exercise.
Whatever the causes, these individuals represent a substantial burden on the economic and social fabric of all communities. Finding ways to return these persons to a productive life should be an ongoing priority for everyone.
Unfortunately, a large number of well-meaning organizations have lost sight of the goal. Rather than rehabilitating those in need they have become enablers of self-defeating lifestyles. By providing handouts without requiring changes in behavior, they enable and perpetuate underlying issues. Many of us believe that until these organizations are required to show proof of effectiveness to those providing their funding, this circuitous process will continue. Many are being given a fish, but few are being taught how to fish.
Every modern viable business organization measures its results against objective standards. Ideas are examined, developed and tried. If successful, they continue; if not, they shut down. Before tax monies and donations are used to fund XYZ programs, I'd like to know how many people who have gone through that program are now, at least partially, self-supporting and for how long. In short, how effective is the program in actually returning someone to a productive role in society?
The issues involved in social rehabilitation are incredibly complex, but until social support organizations are required to offer us objective proof of their effectiveness, we will continue to see huge sums of fiscal and human capital wasted. While relieving physical and spiritual hunger may be good things, those who need our help deserve far more than a sandwich and a sermon.
Phillip A. Williams, Augusta