Monday, March 12, 2018

Those Who Have the Least Are the Most Generous

Years ago, a Moroccan friend of mine told me that when he was a car valet, the people with the ordinary cars tipped the most, while those with the luxury and exotic cars tipped the least. As a journalist and scientific data lover, I'm not a big fan of anecdotal evidence at all, but that doesn't mean I don't find it interesting at times. 

Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer-winning journalist who you may remember from a few years ago for publishing the Edward Snowden material, resides in Brazil. This recent tweet by Greenwald is an interesting anecdote that reminded me of my Moroccan friend's experience:

Greenwald, along with his partner, David Miranda, has established an animal shelter run by homeless people in Rio de Janiero. As many of you know from my writings about my cat, Scooter, pets and homeless people have bonds that run far deeper than those of ordinary pet owners. That's because your pet still loves you when society has turned its back on you, and prefers that you don't exist. From Greenwald's guest column in The Dodo:

"The compassion, empathy and self-sacrifice defining the relationship between those who are homeless and their pets is extraordinary. It is difficult to explain how affecting it is to watch a hungry, homeless person receive a desperately needed meal and, without a second thought, instantly divide it in half to share it with their hungry dog or cat. Leslie Irvine, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado, has devoted much of her academic career to studying this unique relationship, and even named her book on the topic, 'My Dog Always Eats First.' "

Irvine's book is scholarly and tedious to read, but I'm glad I did slog through it. She traveled around the San Francisco Bay Area with a veterinarian on wheels who provided free vet services for the pets of homeless people. The book documents those experiences.

Finally, the true causes of homelessness are starting to dawn on the mainstream media. I was pleasantly surprised to find a quote of mine extracted from my Vox article in the national magazine The Week. The article very succinctly sums up the problem--and the lamentable solution: more affordable housing is needed now, but won't be built for years, if ever. Still, the article does wonders in changing the stereotypical narrative about homeless people to one that is accurate--and obvious--to anyone on the West Coast witnessing the problem right in front of them. Without living wages and affordable housing, homelessness will only increase.