If I ask you what a homeless person looks like, I am sure you have an image in your head that represents them. One way or another I bet it involves them being disheveled and tired, maybe dirty or lost. I’ll bet many of us have a really good description that includes the statement, “Not like me.”
It’s easier to not notice the problem of homelessness in America by thinking the homeless are nothing like us, that they are separate from us and we could never, ever be among the group of people living on the streets or moving from shelter to shelter. We can remove ourselves from responsibility by refusing to believe we can relate to these people in any way.
Did you ever stop to wonder, who were these people before they were homeless? Did you know they were people just like you, and me. They had lives and jobs and families. Maybe a house and a career.
Did you ever wonder what the elderly lady down on the corner did before she was homeless? She was a teacher and lost her pension during the recession. Or what about the middle age man over there? He is an Army Veteran, as are over 40% of the male homeless population, veterans of the armed forces.
The little girl on the playground? She used to live a comfortable, secure middle-class life in a house with her mom and dad. Except her dad lost his job and her mom got sick and when they couldn’t keep up on the house payment, the bank foreclosed.
The young man walking around talking to himself has a mental illness and no place to receive treatment. With the right meds and a stable place to live, he might get better but most likely he will remain homeless and his illness will go unchecked.
The young woman at the shelter was visiting and got stranded here. Everything she had was stolen from her and she has no way to get back to her home. She used to be a student teacher and had big plans for her future. She still does, she just doesn’t know how she will rise above her current circumstances yet.
The mother with her 2 children? She is a widow and trying to make ends meet all on her own. With no help with her children and unable to afford housing even working two jobs, she packed the kids up and lives with them out of her car, relying on odd jobs and the kindness of strangers to keep them fed.
The older guy sitting against the wall has a drinking problem, the end result of a work injury that causes him so much pain he drinks to function at all. He doesn’t want to be homeless.
Homeless people are discriminated against more than any single race or religion because they represent all of them. Homelessness itself does not discriminate. They are mistreated and looked down upon, or not even seen. They are just like you and me. They are human.
They don’t want to be homeless, just like you don’t.