The Independent Daily

Homeless from the beginning

Jack Shepherd

We often forget that in America in 1580 when you stepped off the boat, you were homeless.

Churches started in the 1640's in America when communities of five families or more took on the roll of helping those in need. The reasons then for homelessness are the same as they are today: Sickness, loss of the ability to provide for yourself and family, fire, robbery or war, and natural disasters. The world was a different dangerous place then. Today danger still lies around the corner.

Private citizens who were well off supported the church, and the church did what it could for all in need, and it was seen as a good thing to get people back on their feet to be productive once again in the community. Governments, unless well established, did little and the Debtor’s Prison along with the Poorhouse was overrun.

In America even war was not a sure paycheck for the young or old men of the Continental Army. Normally one could expect the first month’s pay of about three dollars, and after that, well, good luck.

Not much has really changed in America in 238 years when you look at the bigger picture. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying, because every effort – no matter how seemingly small – may mean one less homeless person will not die an anonymous casualty of neglect as a result.

Christ said that the poor have always been with us. But He did not imply, thus, to ignore them.

I have no simple answers to the homeless problem in America today. Prayer, though, comforts me with hope, and daily to treat all people with dignity and respect until this mess gets straightened out.

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