Came across one of my old comic strip today in the latest issue of STREET SPIRIT. And — as usual when I come across my old artwork — I have mixed feelings about it.
This one was one of my more widely-published cartoons. And it sort of symbolized the general approach that a lot of the “homeless activist” took toward the homeless issue back then. Where we’d sort of try to shame people into having compassion and concern for the homeless. Ya know? Like: “How can you be sitting there with all your money and possessions when there’s all these poor homeless people sleeping in the gutters with nothing!!” Like people are supposed to be endlessly sobbing and weeping over “the plight of the homeless.”
But there were a couple of problems with that approach. For one thing it was hard to sustain it — those appeals to emotion. And after people walked by the same raggedy-ass homeless people, day after day, year after year, lying there in the doorways and gutters, they’d just get numb to it, and start tuning it out. And people would talk about how they had reached the point of “compassion fatigue” when it came to the homeless issue.
The other problem with that approach: It addressed the symptoms — throwing compassion (and money) at the homeless after the fact. But it really didn’t address the underlying causes — the main reasons that they had become homeless in the first place.