[*I had no time to write a new post, so I’m reprinting one from a previous blog that encourages us to find better ways to deal with young offenders; especially those with extenuating circumstances.]
Did you see the story of the family evicted from section 8 housing because the 13-year-old son stole a pair of shoes from K-mart to keep his feet warm? A single-mother and her three children have been told to vacate their Grand Junction apartment in two weeks, right around Christmas, because of the incident that had nothing to do with the apartment complex.
By no means am I condoning the act of stealing, but what type of lesson has the system just taught this family (especially the young kids)? This boy, after being forced to wear tattered shoes because of the family’s poverty, which kept his feet cold and hurting, was tempted (as any child would be) to find a way to relieve the pain. And he made a wrong choice. But the system that blindly and callously casts the entire family, including the boy’s two younger siblings, out in the dead of winter is a far greater criminal act than what the child did.
The manager of the apartment complex in Grand Junction said in a statement to the media that “shoplifting violated the family’s lease agreement” — (Huffington Post). Any criminal activity, even off the premises, is grounds for immediate eviction. But what they fail to take into account is the extenuating circumstance. This was not a case of a hard-nosed delinquent trying to get over on the system; it was a poor child with hurting feet trying to ease the suffering. And now that child is riddled with guilt over his mother and siblings being cast out into the cold for something he did.
The act of shoplifting should not be condoned, but the manager missed a great opportunity to make a huge difference in the life of both this boy and his family. Instead of evicting them it would have been much better to let the boy see the error of his ways, and then give him the opportunity to make up for his mistake by working around the apartment complex (about two weeks), and then paying him enough to buy a pair of shoes. The boy would learn he had to take responsibility for his actions and that it is better to work for things you need instead of stealing. And his younger siblings would have seen the lesson as well, and their mother would have felt that someone in society actually cared about her circumstance and attempted to help instead of simply adding to her burden because it’s easier for the manager and property owners to callously cast an adult and three children into the cold: hoping they can find a shelter that will take them.
The action taken by the manager and property owners has only reinforced the belief to this family, especially the children, that nobody cares for them so they need to look out for themselves. And that kind of belief will create the temptation for more bad choices.
The majority of Americans use to have compassion and think about others more than themselves, but those days appear to be long gone. That’s what happens when you take a loving God out of a society’s belief system.
© JW Thomas