The New Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne was a romance novel written in 1850 but set in the 1640s. According to Wikipedia “it tells the story of Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an affair and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. Throughout the book, Hawthorne explores themes of legalism, sin, and guilt.” Hester’s punishment is to wear the scarlet “A” for the rest of her life.

According to NBC News there have been calls for the homeless and beggars to be moved in preparation of the Prince’s wedding because it “is presenting the picturesque English town in a poor light, the local council leader has said.” Reports are that British Prime Minister Theresa May has rejected the calls to move the rough sleepers and beggars.

In an NBC Bay Area News article dated January 28, 2016 they stated, “The homeless in San Francisco said they are being herded out of the Embarcadero as the city prepares to kick off Super Bowl City this weekend.”

Leading up to Super Bowl 50 in 2016, USA Today ran an article that spoke of a homeless man named Otto stating, “He’s made enough mistakes in his life, most of them he says due to alcohol, …” the article goes on to say “To assume that the homeless have no structure to their day and no pride in it is a common fallacy.” The article also mentions “Stephen Frates, 48, meticulously keeps his tiny section of Eighth Street sidewalk in shape. His hair is brushed and well-kept and as he shows a reporter his makeshift home, he apologizes for it being messy, even though it isn’t.”

After reading that you can understand why I believe homelessness is The New Scarlet Letter and why I believe there is a blazing red “H” engraved on the homeless.

In Marion County, how does someone determine whether another individual is homeless? There is no makeshift shelter on the street. There is no particular corner for them to stand on. There is no skid row. I have observed in my lifetime many people looking down their noses at others. Many of the people that eat at the Mission have housing but not enough income to support housing and food.

Our attitude towards the homeless can reveal a superiority complex. Many discriminatory practices that are decried by the majority of our society are now foisted on the homeless. How can you justify discrimination? You cannot – even if the person is homeless. We are willing to give understanding to many different people with many issues – so why not the homeless – why can’t their cause be heard?

My approach is very different in this writing, yet it is my hope that you will raise the homeless up one peg in your esteem – that they would be worthy of your compassion. It often seems to me that Union Mission is the only one taking up the fight on behalf of the homeless or speaking out on their behalf. They need a voice – a voice that urges them to a better life and urges compassion for them – a voice that resounds with compassion for them.

Please do not add the scarlet “H” to the many other burdens they carry. There is no reason for the stigma we place on them – other than the fact that they are not just like us. The stigma (the Scarlet H) society has placed on them can be lifted helping them out of their present circumstance.