When a homeless person approaches, the usual reaction of your average person is likely one of suspicion. What do they want? Generally, we want to avoid a homeless person. Who knows what they’ll do. We don’t want to have much to do with them and would rather they just go away. And most of the time, they do, then we can take our guard down and we can go on with our day.
Now, some will argue, the more you do for the homeless, the more money you give them, the more programs you have to help them, the more homeless you will have. Others will argue that society has a duty to help those who need it. They argue that those with money and jobs and homes have a moral obligation to provide those who don’t with food, shelter and clothes.
We would argue that the answer is somewhere in the middle. Provide some assistance, do what you can, while encouraging and help them to get back on their feet and being able to live independently. Guide, but don’t carry. Once on the streets, the homeless face a rough road. Some want to get off it, but don’t have the resources. Some would like a new direction, but don’t know what to do. Others will keep plodding ahead, no matter how many times they fall.
Kauai has, by last official count, about 425 homeless. It could be higher or lower, but that’s the generally accepted range.
Most of us don’t know the homeless. We don’t know their names, where they came from or why how they got there. Most of us don’t want to know them, either. But one of Kauai’s homeless, Mark Segreti, shared his story often on TGI’s Forum page. We got to know him whether we wanted to, or not. Sometimes, he criticized churches. Sometimes, he praised them. Sometimes, he was critical of other people and other times, he praised them. And sometimes, he emphasized that he and other homeless needed help and if they didn’t get it, they might not survive.
Mark Segreti didn’t survive.
The 56-year-old was found dead in the early morning hours of Dec. 21 in Lihue. His body was discovered on the sidewalk fronting the Kauai Community Federal Credit Union building on Hardy Street about 4 a.m.
Police do not suspect foul play, and the results of an autopsy are pending, according to a county press release.
Someone once said, sometimes, people just die. While that is true, it still raises the question: could we have done more for Mark Segreti while he was here?
Yes, he had personal issues. He was not a saint. He had problems and caused problems. He fought his own demons. He had troubles with police. He was often his own worst enemy. He didn’t take help when he had the chance. Still, there remains that nagging thought maybe we could have made more of difference for this man.
Segreti himself shared such hopes in his letters to TGI. The following are some excerpts of the letters he wrote:
“We are homeless but not hopeless. And we are blessed each day from above and by helping each other. But we need refuge, assistance and hope. My heart goes out to many that suffer from mental illness or heath issues. Those in charge of our island need to address those needs and issues before more die from neglect, illness or just give up.” — July 18, 2016
“I am sharing in hopes to encourage others who are afflicted by either drugs, alcohol, social or moral issues to stay focused, determined and strong when faced and overcoming any adversities.” — March 30, 2016
“So for all struggling and lost souls, stay faithful and strong in your adversities, Keep with your programs and believe. There are many programs to help like Breath of Life, Calvary and St Michael’s. There is no reason to them face alone. Join me and the fellowships. I can still help and let’s beat this.” — April 14, 2016
“I and many are blessed but still struggle with our situation. Have some pity folks. It could be you.” — June 16, 2016
“Regardless of your situation, we must help keep other as a community and ohana.” — Dec. 10, 2016.
We don’t know how Mark Segreti died. We don’t know what his final days were like. We really know very little about him.
But we do know that there are times we have opportunities to help those who need it. We can igore them. We can ask them to go away. Or we can see if there is anything we can do that might make a difference. Some, sadly won’t accept our help. Some will be touched that help was offered. The only thing we know we can do, is try.