If there’s one problem we as Americans go to great strides to ignore, it’s the homeless’s plight in our country. While many of us have given generously to homeless people we see on street corners; we’ve also gone to great lengths to ignore them as well. I confess that I’ve been guilty of this, pretending to be on the phone while rolling up to a traffic light. It never feels good looking away from another person in need. And the excuses we make up for ourselves do nothing to solve the problem.
Very often, we would say, “Well, they would have probably used the money for drugs or booze anyway,” or “They need just to go get a job.” Many folks don’t realize that there are plenty of homeless folks out there who have jobs but don’t make enough to pay rent. We often take for granted the resources we were blessed with within our lives, such as supportive networks such as friends and family who can help us out during tough times.
Sadly, there are so many people all alone in the world or alienated from these networks due to various issues such as drug addiction and mental health issues, among other things. Back in 2017, Ben McAdams, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, felt something was wrong. You see, after his city invested millions in opening new homeless shelters, he was finding that there were still a lot of folks who were not coming in off the streets.
When McAdams asked his staff about this issue, they would tell him that it was because they were “lazy” and did not want to change their lifestyle. However, McAdams suspected that there was more to the story and decided to do his own investigation, which involved him going undercover for 3 days as a homeless person within his city.
McAdams did not share his plans with anyone except his assistant because he didn’t want people to think he was engaging in a “publicity stunt in the face of human suffering.”
“I needed to see firsthand, to understand the complexity of the recommendation I was being asked to make,” he SAID.
The mayor would set out on the city streets in old dirty clothes with only his cell phone for emergencies and a bag of old clothes. He did not carry his wallet and had no money. Throughout his experience on the street, he begged for change and found that he was constantly hungry and made very little money to buy food.
After spending a night on the streets, he decided to venture into one of the city’s new homeless shelters. While on the street, he spoke to several homeless people who told him horrific stories of violence, drug abuse, and mistreatment by the staff taking place within his city’s shelters. However, he knew he needed to verify this information first-hand.
Once he checked into a shelter, he was shocked to discover that everything he’d heard was absolutely true. Another homeless man at the shelter gave him some sage advice on staying safe and keeping his belongings while there.
McAdams was advised to keep his shoes on while sleeping, not to use the restroom in the middle of the night (due to the high risk of being assaulted and robbed), and to stay as quiet as possible to escape the notice of dangerous criminals who roamed the aisles.
Indeed, McAdams observed several dangerous-looking men walking around at night going in and out of the shelter while chatting with staff members. He was certain that these people were not “security.”
After his experience, McAdams did not immediately announce what he had done. Instead, he quietly fired several staff members, including high-ranking officials involved with the program. Over the next few months, he set to figure out ways to improve the situations at his city’s shelters.
“The things I saw in my very brief time were shocking and reaffirmed my commitment to take action now.”
“Doing nothing is not an option, even if it’s the end of me politically,” he said.
You can watch a video about Mayor McAdam’s incredible story below.
And as of 2021, it seems as though the reforms Mayor McAdams implemented had a positive impact on the lives of several of the city’s homeless population. Here’s a comment from one person who lived on Salt Lake City streets during these reforms.
“I live in salt lake city and was homeless for 2 years for personal reasons i can tell you right now how much of a difference he has made he is literally a godsend he made shelters safe again. The first night i stayed at a shelter i had a large garbage bag full of donated clothes i had been gathering i thought i was safe so i finally slept and actually hit rem sleep for once after being onnpark benches and sidewalks for months and having the cops tell me to move multiple times a night.
I was finally really sleeping and i was using my clothes bag as my pillow like usual and while i slept dead to the world someone came and took my entire bag of clothes right out from under my head i never saw it again and after he made this modern housing for homeless individuals the space is a lottle smaller but it has a lockable door where only the staff which is extremely helpful and lovely people have keys and only to use in case of drug use in a room or some other emergencies.
i stayed in the shelter everyday for a month and every day of that time i felt safe and like i had options they offer tons of helpful services to help you get back on your feet thanks to them i have a full time job a car my own HOUSE and it is all thanks to the help they offered me and others who are truly interested in bettering their lives god bless salt lake city and our amazing mayor!!!!!!”
Could you imagine how better off our society would be if we had more politicians like Ben McAdams? Please be sure to tell your friends and family about this incredible story and help spread the word. Maybe, we can help inspire change in more communities.
Credit: The Hungersite.GreaterGood