Hating The Homeless

Monday morning post swim workout. YMCA locker room. The showers specifically, but you didn’t do anything to deserve that unsettling imagery. I’d say I was eavesdropping on the two men across from me, but the one man hating on the homeless was so worked up, so loud, I don’t think it really counted as eavesdropping.

LIVID at how many people were living under the 4th Street Bridge downtown.

ENRAGED at how many resources the state was dedicating to helping them.

FURIOUS at them for not having the decency to live indoors.

So indignant, I couldn’t organize my thoughts until immediately afterwards. Isn’t that how it always is? As soon as I escaped his orbit, I knew what I should’ve said to him.

“It’s so amazing how you’ve never lacked for anything, how you’ve never even needed any compassion from anyone. You are so perfectly together, your life is such a model of success, you owe it to everyone of those homeless men, women, and children to share your life lessons. You should go down to the 4th Street Bridge right now and start your “Live Life Just Like Me!” lecture series. I’m sure they will be appreciative and immediately start applying all of your amazing insights on how to live. And as a result of that wisdom, and your incredible personal example, they will no longer be homeless. And just like you, they will have disposable income, some of which they will use to also join the YMCA. Then they will join us in these exact same showers, and following your amazing lead, express their outrage at some other offending subset of people.”

Homeless Advocate Extraordinaire

There are 21,000 homeless students in Washington State and 1.3m nationwide.

Whenever I come across an article on homelessness, like a few days ago on the front page of the Huffington Post, I look for a reference to an inspiring high school friend of mine, Joel Roberts, who oversees the largest homeless organization in Los Angeles. The Huff Post article was titled, “Top Ten Advocates for the Homeless.” He has to be in there I thought to myself. Nah, oh wait, he wrote the piece. Cool.

When Joel was one, he was abandoned on a Hong Kong Street. Picked up by an American missionary, he was raised by a loving family in Long Beach, CA. We met early in high school and grew close through our participation in a church youth group.

At fifteen or sixteen, Joel was doing design work for an architectual firm. Driving around Long Beach in his nicer than normal car, he’d casually point to a tall building and matter of factly say, “I drew that.” He was always more interested in volunteering in Tijuana orphanages than architecture though. I helped him move into his Cal Poly San Louis Obispo dorm where he intended on studying architecture. Early in his SLO career he lost interest in architecture and committed instead to becoming a pastor.

After completing a Masters in Divinity, he became a successful pastor at a large mostly Asian American Church in Los Angeles. I think it was during this period that I introduced him to a woman who became his wife. The marriage, a dismal failure from the get-go, ended in divorce. Fortunately, he’s never held that against me. After a few years he left his church ministry to do what he’d always felt was his life purpose, help end homelessness.

Very proud to call him a friend. More than anyone I know, he’s living out the Beatitudes.