By now the Facebook live video of the homeless man being made to leave a local McDonald's restaurant has been viewed more than 30 million times.
I won't lie; at first I was mad while watching a human being being shooed out of a business the way a stray animal who'd wandered in might. Then I was upset that a business wanted gone a man who was clearly eating their product that had been paid for by a paying customer so I thought "what's the big deal?" Then I got a little miffed at the officer for ... well, really just doing her job, so I don't know why I was ever really mad at her. I was wrong. Each time I was wrong.
So I've had a night's sleep and some time to really go over this scenario again and I find myself not being able to be mad at any one person (or business, or police department) involved. I'm mad at all of us.
Hear me out.
It's not McDonald's fault our nation has so many homeless people. The officer in the video? Not her fault, either. I can even understand why a restaurant manager would think it's bad for business to have a homeless person lurking around outside the business - as has been alleged. It IS bad for business!
Which is why I'm mad at all of us. Save for a few brave and tireless souls at the patchwork of shelters and food kitchens in and around Myrtle Beach, we're all guilty of not doing more to care for HUMAN BEINGS like this guy, who clearly needed a meal, and was given one by Yossi Gallo, the man whose video has been seen by tens of millions of people.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimated in 2015 that the greatest nation on Earth had about 500,000 (that's half a MILLION) homeless people. About 125,000 (or a quarter) of them are children. And those numbers are DOWN 11% since 2007. Shocking, right?
According to a Reuters article on the subject then, "A lack of affordable housing, combined with slumping pay at the lower end of the U.S. wage scale, has been cited by analysts as a driver of homelessness in a number of U.S. cities. "
Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, told Reuters, "we are 7 million units short of affordable housing for low-income people – that’s a big gap."
People become homeless for various reasons; a lot of us are a month or two of unemployment from being their, too, really, and for countless others, there's health and mental health issues and the real disappointment comes in realizing that, in 2016, there were about 40,000 homeless American veterans.
I have no idea why the guy featured so prominently in the viral video is homeless or where his life went south to land him where he is. I just know we're NOT at all doing enough locally or nationally to take better care of men and women (boys and girls, too) like him.
I don't have the answers, but I do have this skill: I don't see a vagrant or a "scuzzy" homeless scourge here. I see a human being that needs more than just a meal from a well-intentioned guy. He needs to be safe and taken care of - and that falls on all of us for not being passionate about doing better by men and women (and children) like him.
I will say this, though: leave the cop alone. She was doing her job. Leave McDonald's alone - and the manager too, please. This isn't a problem solely of their making.
This is all our mess. Leaving 1-star reviews on social media won't alter this man's life. Or curb homelessness, in general. So the time we're all spending sharing the video and being outraged or leaving poor reviews and comments on a restaurant's social media accounts ... couldn't we be using it to ask ourselves "what can I do to help end homelessness?"
There are a LOT of resources & organizations to assist the homeless in our area; if you want to pitch in or help out, here's a handy list of those groups. Find one near you that you can find some time to volunteer for or that could use (trust me, they ALL could) a financial donation.
I'd like us all to be a lot more PRO-active and a little less RE-active on this.