“Sir, got any spare change?” I swiftly walk past the homeless man on Franklin Street, muttering, “Sorry, I don’t.”
I cringe, angry at myself for a not-so-genuine apology and angrier at the man for being such an annoyance.
“He shouldn’t be asking people for money. It’s shameful. Probably going to buy alcohol and drugs … How sad, how despicable.”
These thoughts float in my head for a few seconds at most; then, as if the homeless man was just a shadow, he slips from my mind and my thoughts wander to the day’s YoPo flavors. My pace quickens in anticipation for frozen yogurt while my hands tighten around a $5 bill, gripping onto a privilege that paints the lovely town of Chapel Hill.
That reaction was commonplace for me during my first year at UNC, and I still struggle with this reaction in my reflection on homelessness in our town.
The pleas of homeless people have become part of the symphony of Franklin Street: Cars accelerating on the road, set the beat to families and friends chatting as they walk along the street, the percussion of windy weather following all of these instruments.
The echoes of poverty are embedded in this sound, yet they are muffled by our inaction to do better.
And better we can do, particularly in respect to the number of homeless people living in Chapel Hill.
According to the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, there are around 110 homeless people living in Chapel Hill this year. To think that I have had lecture classes with more students than that makes me less intimidated by the idea that we can greatly reduce homelessness in our community.