By Dwight Hobbes
It is the job of politicians, more than actually solving the public’s problems, to make sweeping statements about how well they supposedly are solving the public’s problems. That’s why a Gallup Poll was trotted out last year extolling that unemployment had fallen to its lowest level since 2008.
Never mind that December of that year started out with the National Bureau of Economic Research stating what everyone who works for a living already knew: In 2008, the U.S. economy was a catastrophe, being officially in recession since 2007. And that, officially or not, as far back as 1982, when Gary “U.S.” Bonds recorded “Out of Work,” it might as well have been the new national anthem.
Since no one has ever been known to worry about lobbyists for the homeless vote, politicians let the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program die in 2012, leaving the disenfranchised in worse shape than ever. If we aren’t in an actual depression, all that’s missing is Wall Street high-fliers going sky-diving without their parachutes.
The common man, woman and child need all the help they can get. Which is where Better Way To Life enters the picture, for the past decade an initiative to help the homeless until they can somehow get in a position to help themselves. “It is our desire,” reads material on their website, “to get as many men and women [as possible] back into the workforce and off these streets and in better living conditions.”
Toward this end, founder McKayla DuJour takes a determined hands-on approach to intervening between fate and the unfortunate, providing meals and clothing personally funded and distributed from her SUV. “I am not rich or well off,” she states, “but I am one who believes that every bit makes a difference. And that is what I do.”
Along with the obvious aid of food and clothes, there are the invisible but no less vital intangibles. “I often have conversations with people to get to know them and understand their situations,” says DuJour. “They are delighted that I take the time to learn and find out about them. Some…are apprehensive. No one enjoys being homeless, and no one wants to beg and be sometimes humiliated. It isn’t easy on these streets.”
McKayla Dujour observes first-hand that the lazy and shiftless homeless stereotype is an unjust generalization. “I have been seeing for years [that] many…want to work, want to earn money, have shelter and…be in good standing with their families.” In that last regard, she’s had the opportunity to facilitate reconciliation: “I’ve connected people with loved ones.”
Why take on such an endeavor, especially when looking at the bleak prospects of homelessness turning around anytime soon? “I want to help. People don’t choose these circumstances. [Others] are so quick to judge and think that the people in our society that are less fortunate are mostly at fault. I don’t believe that.
“There are many factors involved in someone becoming homeless. It can be a loss of a parent or losing a job or becoming ill or bankruptcy. I was taught to be compassionate.” In following this commitment, the apple didn’t fall far from Dujour’s family tree.
“Growing up, my mother taught me to love others. I knew early in my life that this was indeed my purpose. I strive to be an advocate for those in less desirable situations [and have] seen so many people mistreated and ignored and disrespected because they are homeless. It can be any one of us in that predicament.
“This has taught me patience, and it also reminds me of how blessed I am and to not take my life and the people in it for granted. It’s also shown me that it doesn’t matter your demographic — this can happen to anyone. Many of us are just one paycheck away from uncertainty.
“As I’ve said many times and to many others, this is what I was put here to do. I hope that when people hear or read my story, it will be something that warms the heart and also stirs the desire to help and make change and to bring hope to someone in despair.”
From here, Dujour intends to continue contributing to the communal good. “Anyone,” she reflects, “can make a difference. I hope to one day have a facility where [people] can come in and get the help and resources that they need. My dream is to have a small space, a center with a kitchen and seating areas for prayer and worship and a shower facility and a library just to be able to make it more comfortable. This is my passion. This is my purpose.”
For more information on Better Way To Live, go to www.better way2life.org.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.
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