The homeless have souls too, in case you forgot


It’s the first of the month. You’re working a part-time job, raising four kids on your own, and all of a sudden you get a notice on your front door that you have three days to vacate the premises. Just that quick, you and your family can go from living paycheck to paycheck to truly being out on the streets.

Displaced citizens come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, from the battered pregnant newlywed who ran away to save her life, to the drug-addicted, mentally-ill Vietnam Vet who sacrificed to make his nation proud.

Our ugly secret

The mistreatment that our homeless brothers and sisters endure on a daily has become our nation’s ugliest open secret. It’s time we show them a proper amount of respect.

Recently, I viewed a video on social media that featured two young college-aged men walking up to obviously inebriated homeless citizens and making them answer mundane questions ranging from sneakers to pop singer Ariana Grande. If they answered correctly, they were given a cold “McDouble” hamburger from McDonald’s.

The video ‒ which has collectively received over 9 million views ‒ highlighted a disgusting new trend in modern society. Our homeless have not only become our nation’s punching bag; now they are its official punchline.

Gone are the days of graciously doing for the less fortunate for the sole purpose of genuine respect and love. We’re in an era where you can only help your fellow citizen if it’s being recorded with the hopes of blowing up online and becoming viral.

If your auntie who is struggling with alcoholism as well as dementia was being interviewed and asked what her favorite Pokémon character was, or told to do 20 pushups for $1, would you be laughing along?

Making a difference

With the sub-zero temperatures in Chicago and throughout the Midwest, thousands of homeless Americans have been found nearly frozen to death. In any urban community in America, there are at least 15-20 churches with adequate space and resources to open their doors during the dangerous frigid nightmare. Yet it takes sole individuals to make the most impact.

Candice Payne, an entrepreneur from Chicago, used her personal American Express credit card to rescue more than 100 homeless Chicagoans, including youth, and got them checked into hotels to escape the recordbreaking cold front. Ms. Payne, like thousands of silent heroes around this country, are proving that shoving a camera in a person’s face doesn’t make you any more of an ally than those who do it purely from the heart.

A local solution?

Here in Daytona Beach, the severity of the situation has reached a breaking point. With nearly 5,000 displaced citizens throughout Volusia and Flagler counties alone, officials have been searching and formulating a solution for a number of years, ultimately resulting in the approval and construction of the controversial $6-million, 15,000-square feet First Step Shelter. Built as a means to “graduate people from homelessness,” the project which opens in early 2020 is the final solution to an ongoing local struggle with homeless citizens taking over public areas such as parks, libraries and even our local beach.

While the groundbreaking housing project has been met with mostly positive reviews, critics including local leaders and homeless citizens themselves point out that the city doesn’t truly care for its homeless population.

Discriminatory laws and ordinances being passed by elected officials, including prohibiting washing off in public restrooms as well as loitering, has caused many displaced and disadvantaged families to give up their fight for a better life. A newly introduced panhandling ban, which would result in trespassing warrants up to two years, has declared open season on our city’s most vulnerable and hungry.

Why target the weak?

According to a mother of twins who has been homeless for 15 years: “Daytona is worried about its image. It’s all about money. Where is the love? You got a human being suffering and you want to put them in jail. I’ve known people who can’t do this for another day, and they walk in front of a train or car.”

Next time you plan on filming yourself giving a homeless person a blanket, sandwich or even a dollar bill, think to yourself whether you would want the entire world to see you at your absolute lowest state. We’re all truly one paycheck away from asking, “Sir, could you spare some change?”

Why does every act of charity have to be filmed and blasted for the world’s praise? When does humanity and morality come into play? Gil Scott Heron famously said, “The revolution will not be televised.” Sadly instead, it’s become digitized, monetized and homogenized.


Rell Black is an award-winning activist, blogger and the founder of Community Healing Project Inc. Click on this commentary at to write your own response.


  1. I couldn’t agree any more. The way the homeless and less fortunate are treated is obsurd. Going to jail for sleeping somewhere that feels safe and asking for change should NOT be a jail worthy crime. We should all feel a certain type of way knowing that, that too could be us! Praying for my city and all the misfortune. Praying for stronger hearts and bigger blessings. Praying for a sound mind and peace for our communities.


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