Most people go through life as law abiding citizens. They have bank accounts, rent apartments, hold down jobs, have families. But suppose, just suppose, you are young – say early twenties – and you smoke a little pot with friends, sometimes even experiment with harder substances. One day you get stopped by a traffic cop. They decide to search your car and find a small amount of cocaine that a friend gave you to hold. You are arrested on a felony charge of possession. You are tried and convicted. You spend a short time in jail.

In all other aspects of your life, you follow the rules. You have a husband or a boy friend, a good job. Maybe you have children. But you make one mistake. You have a felony on your rap sheet.

From that moment on, your job is in jeopardy. Maybe they don’t know or care. But if you lose that job someday in the future, you may never get another one because of your past record. If you move and try to rent an apartment or a house, you’re out of luck because of your past record. Your credit rating plummets.

Maybe you’re stillĀ  young. Life hasn’t yet begun. That one mistake means you have cut short your potential. How are you going to get a job? A place to live? Once a criminal, always a criminal?

Unfortunately, for many this is their life. One mistake can make you are a criminal for life. What happened to second chances? Can you get your past erased? Maybe after seven years and a good lawyer, which costs money, you can get your record expunged as far as credit ratings and jobs and housing is concerned. Meanwhile, what can you can do?

You might be able to get a job that pays cash under the table. That won’t get you a place to live. What are your choices? Became a career criminal? Sell drugs? Live on the street?

With the economy the way it is today, the homeless is a growing cancer in America. How many start out full of dreams and ambitions. Talent and desire can get you to the top. One mistake can tear down that delicate fabric that separates success and failure.

Examining the lives of the homeless, I wonder how many would not be there if they had a second chance to make up for that one mistake in their youth.