The Ukrainian refugee crisis may provide answers on combating our homeless situation.

I hope our government keeps track on the success rate of funds used for the upcoming costs of getting the Ukrainian refugees up and running as part of our economy and society.

My hunch is that the success rate will be extremely high. Furthermore, those refugees, which begin their recovery as part of our homeless society, won’t stay homeless. I expect them to be grateful, productive, and valuable contributors to our country.

Recently, primarily due to covid, our efforts to combat homelessness has drastically increased. There are now sufficient resources available to those willing to make an effort towards recovery. Yet, the problem continues to worsen.

Think about it. Why will Ukrainians succeed and our American homeless won’t? My opinion is that it involves gratitude, and work ethic.

With increases in minimum wage making it possible at least to share housing in many cases, it makes you wonder what some people need to stay off the street. How about some gratitude for what’s available and keeping you alive for doing nothing in return? How about realizing that nothing will change unless you actually attempt to work or earn your subsistence?

There are a multitude of programs available for even the worst in our society. Yet many of those begging for handouts, don’t want to sacrifice their habits for what can lead them to a productive and self supporting life.

If my take on this sounds simple and cruel, it’s not because I’m unfamiliar with the situation. About 30 years ago, I suffered from severe depression due to loss of my job, friends, and family. I spent many nights wandering the country, in and out of homeless shelters. Thank God, a place to sleep and food was always available somewhere in our country if I was willing to abide by the rules of those who offered it.

Aside from unemployment for a few months, I managed to work enough odd jobs and earn what I needed to stay off the streets. Many times just living in hotels or with people who trusted me and would take whatever I could give them to show my gratitude and appreciation for their trust.

Recently, due to the extended illness and death of a loved one, my own serious health issues, and the pandemic happening concurrently, I found myself homeless again. Due to caregiving and my own health issues, my income was reduced drastically. I cashed out a small retirement fund from an earlier job, took my social security early at 62, and sold all I had of any value.

I had only requested covid rental assistance for the five months I needed to remain in the rental until my girlfriends family could travel and retrieve her belongings. I was actually eligible for much more. I also had to sign up for public health insurance when surgery was necessary for a large oral tumor. Previously, I always paid out of pocket in Mexico or community clinics. Bottom line, I never asked for public assistance when I had the ability to do it myself.

Currently, I remain homeless, mainly due to lingering health issues related to a surgery. Yet, I only accept the medical services required to heal and eventually be productive again. I’ve refused many services like transportation, clothing, food, etc. Simply because I had at least some money, or something I could sell.

I did inquire at one point about a housing program. However, I was required to have a criminal record or to be considered mentally ill. I did not qualify. I was offered the program several times anyway. I felt they knew I was being totally honest about my situation and appreciated my unusual behavior. Honesty.

The program would have offered much more than I felt I needed to stay off the streets. I knew there were others who needed more help than me.

I nearly gave up on life. But the lessons I learned about work ethic from my father and grandparents were valuable to my recovery. Also, my gratitude towards anyone who gave me moral support was extremely beneficial. I gained self respect and motivation when I gave away money and gifts to others who I felt would appreciate it and pass the generosity to others. Ever since I became more giving, I seem to always have what I need to live a fairly good life without a permanent residence.

It just seems like every time I give to others, I get more than I need in return. So I give it away again. And it somehow comes back again. I actually don’t stress about money anymore. I know I can earn it myself, if and when I may need it. But I don’t need much anyway.

My suggestion to my fellow homeless. Primarily, healthy,adult men younger than 65. Quit depending on others to pay for your inaction. You most likely feel worthless because you do nothing for yourself or others. Try cleaning someone’s yard or the street you sleep on. Maybe help the disabled, elderly, or mentally ill with physical assistance. And more importantly, don’t accept any compensation! I know that sounds crazy. But the value of self respect and happiness you will get, will outweigh the few dollars which will not change your situation.

Working for nothing will change your attitude and your life for the better. Help others, and you will soon find that you will find more reason to help yourself. Don’t be a taker. Be a giver.

In closing, I am inspired by the Ukrainian people. Most men are not taking, they are giving. Giving their health and lives for the betterment of their country. That “can do" attitude is how I remember the America I grew up in. But when I see healthy American men seeking handouts, I realize why I would bet on Ukrainian refugees before my fellow homeless Americans. Shame on those who accept government handouts without an effort to help themselves. And applause to the brave Ukrainians who have reminded the world what love of their country requires. Gratitude and sacrifice.



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Roberto Villarreal

Roberto Villarreal

A retired gambler with a background in root cause analysis and process improvement. Providing creative analysis on sports, gambling, current events, and life.