Would you call 911 for a homeless person?

Homeless man sleeping in the street

Homeless man sleeping in the street

Probably like many people, you go downtown occasionally and come across homeless people. This is the situation of many people who live or work in the large cities of North America and elsewhere in the world. When you see a homeless person, do you call the police or 911?

A few days ago, I saw this video (After officer’s gift, homeless man ‘lit up like it was Christmas) of an officer named Lawrence DePrimo who bought boots to a homeless man probably to keep his feet from being amputated as the winter is getting closer. Lawrence DePrimo is surely a very generous man, but this homeless person needs more than a pair of boots.

A few weeks ago, I met a homeless man in the Old Port of Montreal. He limped a lot and seemed to have difficulty speaking. His condition was very miserable. This is far from being the first time I see this kind of situation. Obviously, this man lived distress and was struggling for survival. Many people have already visited the emergency department for problems much less severe and they received appropriate cares.

In addition, many children have been brought back from the street to be supported by host families because people had reported the children to the authorities. So why when it is a homeless adult who is in distress, we are doing nothing?

I guess the answer comes from the fact that it is because the system cannot do much for them or almost. When you are an adult, it looks like we take for granted that you can fend for yourself, so we let you take the steps to get out from the street.

If I see someone in distress, like many people, I tend to dial 911 or call the police. Furthermore, like many people, I got used to see more homeless people along the streets and pass by. Sometimes, I could give a few dollars. Sometimes, I am tempted to call 911 because many people have already done so with good reasons for less serious problems than the homeless people found dead frozen. I am aware that if I called 911, they will would return the person in the street and that would not have changed anything.

We are so used to seeing homeless people abound in the town centers that we assume this as the norm. Probably, you think I am exaggerating with 911. I heard many times, in the news, announcers said they had found a homeless man dead in the cold on a bench during winter. Many of them are very sick physically and mentally. They have a poor diet and have little or no medical care. Many have ended up in the street after a severe depression.

911 is not a solution to get these people out from the street. However, I think if we took a step back from what we are accustomed to seeing, we would act differently. Imagine that you do not know the problem of homelessness. So what would you do for someone in the street, which has increasing health problems and suffering that exceed the ones of many people in our emergency departments?

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