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Homage to hugo alfredo, a homeless man who died on the streets of new york on april 24

May 2010 – Editorial, by Bruno Ferrari, Director General

A man lies bleeding, dead after being stabbed while trying to help someone else who was being assaulted.  People pass around the lifeless body; some hesitate yet continue along their way.  No one calls for assistance.  Hugo Alfredo’s death reminds us that a homeless man is still a human being, but that our sense of humanity seems to dissolve in the face of the ills that affect our developed societies.

Hearing about such an event, accompanied by the cries from those who would assume absolute positions, and who would denounce the indifference of selected people, makes me doubt myself at times.  Faced with such an event, what kind of person would I be?

Upon reflection, I think I am two types of people.  I am someone who would immediately take the lead and call for help, and yes, try to get passers-by to help.  And yes, I am a citizen that, within the context of my work and expertise, feels that, potentially, I can help such a person in crisis.

But, on the other hand, given a feeling of helplessness when faced with a serious situation outside of my field of expertise, in an unfamiliar environment, in a different language, and with little understanding of the plight of local homeless situations, effective responses could be all but impossible.  Could I not be the person passing by hoping that the next person would know what to do?

I do not blame those who immediately look away and try to convince themselves that they saw nothing.  I sincerely think that everyone can take some appropriate action. But the woes that plague our cities are complex and multifaceted … Those individuals , affected must be approached with a sense of seriousness, professionalism, empathy and humanism.  That’s a lot of sentiment for people rushing about in their daily lives.

I think that the feeling of helplessness is at the root of most indifference.  And we must recognize and deal with this condition of life in order to continue our efforts in educating the public.  Aside from more criticism, people need fundamental tools that enable them to re-establish confidence in simple gestures.  That’s one part.  On the other part, we have to recognize that the issues of homelessness, addiction and mental health are disarming for the population. and we must strengthen the support of caring groups within the community for the positive integration of those affected. 

But this will not happen both without the compassion of the general public and the exercise of a strong political will.

Bruno Ferrari
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