If admitted misanthrope Liz Jones can overcome her aversion to the homeless to learn the true spirit of Christmas, can't we do the same?
Jezebel fan Liz Jones, by her own admission, "doesn't really like people all that much." And while she concedes that she's always found Western homeless people "smelly and scary" (and one can't accuse her of not being equal opportunity; she's already expounded on her dislike of the posh), perhaps humbled by her own brush with poverty, she volunteers at a shelter on New Year's Eve. There, she finds kindness and humanity and Christmas spirit, and abandons many of her assumptions.
In a slightly less personal exposition, the Guardian's Rowenna Davis visits a homeless center as part of the Crisis Christmas initiative, which provides not just safety and food, but hair and makeup services and a good dose of festivity. These reports (along with Prince William's much-maligned stint on the streets of London) come as part of London's vow to eliminate homelessness by the 2010 Olympics - as well as a push to remind people that it's very much an ongoing problem.
The same, as if it needs saying, is true in America, where the foreclosure crisis has led to an upswing in numbers. While exact statistics are difficult because of the shifting nature of the population, the National Coalition for the Homeless reports on their website that since the economic downturn,
12 of the 25 cities surveyed reported an increase in homelessness due to foreclosures and another 6 didn't have enough data to be sure. Thirteen of these cities had adopted policies to deal with the recent increase in victims of the housing crisis, but 10 cities had not implemented new policies.
In this regard, reminders are valuable. But it's also crucial not to limit our awareness to the holidays - in New York, at least, food pantries and shelters have been literally overwhelmed this holiday season, and while that's great, the need doesn't disappear on January 1st. A piece like Jones' may seem beyond parody, but in fact it serves a function that her more peculiar rants don't: hers are assumptions and prejudices that many share, and while they might not be as comfortable admitting to them (or indeed, to most things) this is a case where the candor, no matter how unattractive its results, is useful: in a parable as old as time and Scrooge, Jones learns to open her heart. And if she can, we all can.