The recent media darling, supplanting the likes of Susan Boyle, is Ted Williams, the "homeless man with the golden voice." Williams was an unemployed disc jockey found pan-handling on the streets of Columbus, Ohio. A good samaritan heard the fellow and returned with a video camera, made a recording of Williams' voice, and posted it to YouTube for the world to see. The video went viral and soon opportunities and job offers started to come in for Mr. Williams.
The media went wild for this story - because touching, feel good stories of success snatched from the jaws of despair usually garner the attention of an American public desensitized by stories of violence and a bad economy. We need these stories to temper the 24-hour news cycle.
When a private life is suddenly thrust into the public eye, there are a few halcyon days where the story appears perfect before the realities of the human being the media is fawning over come to light, and that is now happening with Mr. Williams. After a touching reunion with his 90-year-old mother was made over the weekend, reports of a domestic altercation between Williams and his daughter broke Monday evening. It turns out that Mr. Williams is struggling with alcoholism and is a former crackhead.
This brings me to my point - few people are homeless by choice, and even fewer are homeless because they are out of options. The support systems and safety-nets in this country are actually very good. Our cities abound with government programs, private charities and individual good samaritans who are more than willing to help people who are down on their luck.
The unfortunate truth is that most homeless people are struggling with mental illness and addiction. This is the very reason that many of them do not seek out the assistance that is available to them, assistance that perhaps could have prevented their homelessness. That doesn't mean they are any less-worthy of our attention and help, but it does mean that the media should not be so quick to vault them into a public spotlight that might also illuminate a darker side to their story.