***Hello readers, after my previous visit to the ministry of labor and employment, I thought that top-down changes that policies can bring forth are meaningful, while bottom-top changes are also necessary.
To read about previous visit--> https://shyoon22.wixsite.com/seanyoon/post/voice-for-the-voiceless-visiting-the-ministry-of-employment-and-labor
Thus, I decided to write a op-ed article about what we have been doing, and send it to a Korean news company. I will come back to this post if my article becomes eventually published. Enjoy!***
Attending a private school located in a developed nation, I found the moans of a homeless man to be disconnected to me. But after a series of interviews and a visit to the Korean Ministry of Employment and Labor to present our team’s initiative to tackle the issue of homelessness, I felt this distance shortened than ever.
One experience that especially spurred me to participate in this initiative when a senior of our team asked a offered a homeless man a cup of coffee after an interview. When he told the man that he wanted to offer a cup of coffee at a cafe, the man replied that he couldn’t. After a short exchange, we discovered that the complaints of the customers blocked him from doing so. He replied with such nonchalance, but it was evident that he had become so callous to hatred only because he faced with it too much.
Such experience of stigma wasn’t abnormal. Most of those who were homeless that we interviewed replied that they wanted to work, but were blocked from being so due to society’s prejudice of homelessness.
The problem of the Korean system is its failure to recognize these nuances of the problem of homelessness. While the average South Korean household experienced headlong economic growth in the previous decades, the homeless and poor were left behind. Along with the long tradition that values hard work, this ever-growing homeless population was accused of laziness and a lack of self-control. Policies for the homeless were prejudiced and tokenistic, which focused on protection rather than rehabilitation.
But being homeless means much more than mere indolence. Say that you are alone on the cold streets. You are presumably hurt, and your pockets have nothing but a few 10-dollar bills. Even more, employers are hesitant to employ a homeless man as their part-time shift, and your self-confidence hits rock bottom after a series of rejections. After an exhausting day, you finally lie down, but are woken up by the kicks of an unsympathetic security officer who shouts at you to go away.
The Voice for the Voiceless, our new initiative, seeks to cope with the problem of homelessness on a bottom-top level. Although the issue is multi-faceted, we aim to focus on the chief three layers: a lack of community, drug dependence, and a lost sense of self-confidence.
The initiative begins with a welcoming open registration process. The registered participants meet every morning to jog together for a month and set feasible targets for themselves. This process fosters a healthy community, provides a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence, and creates a wholesome alternative to drug use. For individuals who show high levels of participation, they can move onto the next phase, where they are provided job training from partnered corporations and job mentors. Armed with these skills, participants raise independence—and finally—get a sustainable job.
Granted, this process will be lengthy and expensive. But that only gives more reason for not only governments but also citizens and voluntary organizations to cooperate for more initiatives like this. Only then will we teach a man how to fish, rather than teach them how to blindly receive the fish.