Dictionary definitions describe “entitlement” as what one has a right to or deserves. However, I sometimes hear entitlement used as a derogatory term describing people believed to be lazy who connive to have babies or abandon their jobs and property just to qualify for humanitarian assistance for basic needs.
In follow-up to the Summit for Our Unhoused Neighbors, a core group is coming together to decide actions to take, with some interested in what can be resolved today with existing resources while others are interested in plans for long range solutions that fill the gaps and address the root causes. A priority identified by Riverton Mayor Tim Hancock and others is that no one should die of hypothermia in Riverton in the future because they have no place to go if they are intoxicated at the time, like what happened in Riverton last November.
A challenge I find disheartening is the perspective of some local religious leaders who believe that humanitarian aid in this situation would create a sense of entitlement and that our neighbors who are unhoused due to their addictions will only increase in numbers because humanitarian aid is available.
I worry that we lose sight when we concern ourselves with who the deserving poor are, who is entitled to help, or who deserves basic humanitarian aid. My belief as a Christian is that Jesus directed his followers who loved him to feed the hungry, care for the sick, welcome the stranger and visit those in prison. I don’t recall required conditions before helping someone. Certainly, in Jesus’ story about the return of Prodigal Sign there’s no limit to God’s generosity.
I believe that all are entitled to what is needed for life. That includes food, water, shelter, and health care. Being entitled is not bad. Failure for the richest nation in the world to respond to these needs, on the other hand, is bad.
Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice.