Social Justice Poetry

Obvious and Hidden | A Social Justice Poem by Donal Mahoney

The homeless are obvious in the city I drive into when business or a ball game requires that I make the trip. They’re napping on benches and dozing against buildings downtown, their possessions in shopping bags close by. They are by the standards of many suburbanites who drive by them an indecorous sight.

Because the homeless in the city are obvious, people with homes often complain. As a result, the homeless are “served” by various
agencies that want to meet their needs and help them get off the

In my city, the homeless are served in frigid winters and torrid
summers by herding them into shelters where they can sleep until they are sent back out when weather conditions improve. They get food from public agencies and private charities. Some good-hearted people simply drive up and give them food.

Largely unserved, however, are the hidden poor, because many of the hidden poor live in suburbs and stay out of sight. Many live with
relatives who have taken them in. At best, life for the hidden poor is three “hots” and a cot and maybe watching TV all day.

Many of the hidden poor are old or disabled or both. Employers
aren’t interested in them for different reasons, some valid, some
not. But more of them live in the suburbs than the number of homeless who sleep on benches and sidewalks in the cities. You don’t need a government study to prove that.

If you live in the suburbs, you may think you see the homeless only
when you go into the city. But keep an eye out for the hidden poor in your own neighborhood. They are homeless in a different way even if they have a bed or cot at night. Sometimes they take a walk—or are taken for a walk–especially in the early morning or at dusk. Otherwise you might not see them or hear about them very often because few lobbyists are paid to advance their cause.

Visit Donal at

~ Your support keeps this site going.