A California website posted an article on the new face of homelessness. And who is the new face of homelessness? According to the article – “the elderly and disabled.”
More locally, the trends in South Central Pennsylvania point to a dramatic increase in number of homeless elderly over the next decade, with some estimates showing the numbers tripling.
My reaction to these two sets of information is this – we shouldn’t be surprised.
Should we be surprised that there will be dramatic increases in homelessness among the most vulnerable of society? I don’t think so. What do we value in society? Production and profit. Our society places a high value on people who produce things and add value – especially those who are gifted at making money and increasing profit.
Let me be clear about this. Producing things and making a profit are not inherently bad. Many good things have been made over time. And great amounts of profit have been used to better society.
The challenge comes when we systematically value people who produce things and make a profit over and above those who don’t fit into those categories. The bigger challenges becomes when those who don’t produce or make a profit are seen as less valuable. In other words, when value of a person is equated to money, we start to have problems.
For the most part, the elderly don’t produce things that can be bought and sold for a price and can turn a profit. They just don’t have the ability. There are exceptions of course.
When profit and money are more valued than people, then it makes sense that the elderly and “disabled” will be seen as having little to no value. Why make sure those with little to no value have housing? They can’t pay it back. They can’t produce anything that would pay for the housing – so the thought goes.
Even the terms “elderly” and “disabled” are loaded with meaning. Pictures of who these people are come to most people’s minds. No different than other terms used to describe people – labels like “homeless,” “poor,” “immigrant,” “refugee,” etc.
But value doesn’t just apply to the conversation about the elderly and “disabled.” It will make sense to a society that protecting nature and natural resources will not be valued if that society finds more value in extracting resources for use and for profit. Future generations don’t receive any consideration to that kind of a society – they aren’t producing anything.
Health care for people who produce little or make little to no profit doesn’t make much financial sense when money is more important to people. Health care only makes sense for those who are producing things. And it’s not really health care – it’s more sick care designed to get people back to work, rather than prevent sickness in the first place.
When a society places value on people based on what they produce, that society has fully embraced the belief that only the strong survive. Except they don’t.
Ancient Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs had a scheme that valued production. It was about making more bricks. Those who could produce were valued more so than those who couldn’t. That is until you couldn’t produce anymore – at which time you became a burden and could be disposed of. That’s the problem with making production the highest value – everyone is replaceable eventually. No one survives. It is dehumanizing to the core.
Yet, Pharaoh met his match in Yahweh and his representative Moses. Moses was the prophet and messenger who had a far different message. The message was that God gives identity based on who a person is, not on what they produce.
The point is this – we have a choice. Whose message are we going to listen to – the prophet of God or profit and production? If you listen to profit and production to find out your value, you’ll be out of luck soon enough.
The prophet’s message is this – God doesn’t value you because of what you can produce. God values you because of who you are. Prophets over profits always has more value.