Will Smith's new movie opened this week, "Pursuit of Happyness." Prior to going, I looked up this movie to read the reviews and one review in particular caught my eye, it said, "dangerously close to being a movie about homelessness."
It was a wonderful movie! The emotions, pain, sense of helplessness, the desire to succeed came through. It had a happy ending. I won't go too much into detail, in case you want to see it, but I felt an amazing connection to this movie.
I saw myself in this character. Having moved out of my home at an early age to make my way in the world, I was not prepared for the world out there. Armed with only a high school diploma and what I thought was skills, I set out. My first job was with an air freight company. I started out earning minimum wage. Before long I had the normal expenses, car, insurance, rent, clothes, and food. Needless to say in no time I was living paycheck to paycheck. With barely enough money to support myself, I learned how quickly you can get in over your head. I had a jar, in it I put my spare change, and any spare change I could find. I picked up change on the street, checked phone coin returns, newspaper vending machines coin returns, any where I could find extra change. I put it in my little jar. Fortunately, the jar held enough change that I could buy, two pounds of pasta, a jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce, a stick of butter, a small jar of parmesan cheese, and a loaf of bread. This jar saved me many times when I found myself with no money for two weeks. It was enough, if I rationed, to last me two weeks.
As my experience grew, so did my earnings. Until I reached the height that only a high school diploma could take you. I was fortunate enough that I did not have too many emergencies. But I did reach a point where I was behind in rent, car payments, and bills. I do remember sleeping outside for a short time, with only a blanket to ward off the cold. It was then that I went to college. I worked three jobs, and went to school full time. I was able to secure an efficiency apartment while I struggled to go to school. One of my classmates lived in a ship container. I used that jar on many occasions to eat. Although the price now was that it could only provide me with pasta, a loaf of bread, and a gallon of milk.
Upon graduating college I was able to successfully build my life to where I had to join a gym to keep myself in shape. With financial security no longer needing that jar. It still sits on my piano, a reminder of just how fragile we are. We are all only one tragic event from being on the streets.
Homelessness is a problem. The current savings rate in America is 0.4%, this shows that people are on a very narrow edge. 67% of the homeless are first time homeless. 48% have been homeless for less than one year. Many cite being homeless because they lost their job, or just couldn't afford the rent anymore. With the average rent in the County of Los Angeles at 1425.00 for a single bedroom and 1645.00 for a two bedroom, it is little wonder how someone earning the current minimum wage could afford a roof over their head let alone the other "necessities" of life.
What can be done? There is no final solution, and I guarantee if you think about it too long, it will immobilize you! However, until we can find a solution, here are a couple of ideas. Donate food and money to the food bank. Volunteer your time to a variety of worthy endeavors. Mentor, tutor, and teach, these people how to handle this world. Many of these homeless do not have the skills, experience, or tools to function in an ever increasing complex world. We cannot allow these people to merely fall by the way.
I still do not have the answer, only a question. What is so wrong about having a movie about homelessness?