I hate the word homeless.
It’s a word followed by too many stereotypes, too many negative connotations and the picture it paints within society’s mind is neither correct nor humanistic. After hearing that word, things seem messy.
In society’s mind, homelessness automatically refers to the tethered, ragged gentleman sitting at the corner near the stop sign who holds a sign asking for help, while a bag of his belongings are slung over his shoulder. Homelessness brings to mind the erratic, old woman shouting over and over again in Pioneer Square while everyone goes out of their way to avoid her. Homelessness, in the minds of many, means begging, drug use and deceit.
In reality, homelessness means so much more than that, and it looks much different than what society has come to assume. Few people stop to think about homelessness as the small family who lost their home due to the rise in the housing market. Homelessness is rarely related to the troubled teen who was too caught up in all the wrong things and had few resources to take a different term.
Defining someone as homeless seems like a cop out. It is often perceived that the only thing missing from a homeless person’s life is, in fact, a house. However, missing from their life is not only a permanent home, but a job, resources, and food.
They have no cell phones. They have no cars. They have no clean clothes. They have no heat when winter sets in. They have no extra blankets when their’s have been ruined. They have no friends or family to visit them when they’re sick.
To be homeless means to have almost nothing. There are currently 3.5 million people with nothing in America today.
Their life is confined to the small space they have created. Their ability to get other necessities depends on a few social services, shelters, volunteers or the compassion of others.
Sadly, few people are willing to give compassion or help to the homeless. We’ve been conditioned to believe helping the homeless will only enable them. If they keep taking our hand-outs they’ll never be motivated enough to seek a life off of the streets.
In reality, the homeless population lacks necessary resources that would allow them to take steps in bettering their life. Handing out a few dollars to ensure they could eat at least one meal per day is not enabling, it is simply providing them a basic human right.
Society has also come to believe the few dollars we do hand out are simply spent on drugs that will feed their habit. Not every stereotype fits every single person, and it’s unfair for society to assign them to a certain category and deem them unworthy.
Along with the negative stereotypes that follow homelessness, society has seemed to forgotten that homelessness is not a choice. Not only can this affect vulnerable members of society as we have come to believe, but any person who experiences the hardships of life.
Homelessness then, is not a choice but rather an effect. It can occur due to health problems and medical bills that can’t be paid. Homelessness may be the result after an unexpected unemployment. In reality, homelessness can happen to anyone and everyone.
Sadly, it’s much easier to become homeless than it is to escape it. As quickly as things may falter and life may fall apart for those who fall victim to life’s messy circumstances, life does not forgive or forget quite as easily. It’s almost as if you’ll continue to be homeless forever if you’re homeless now. But hey, it’s up to them to figure things out.
Wrong. It’s up to us.
With so little opportunities and so few people willing to give the homeless population a chance, it’s up to society to reform the way the homeless are treated, the way they are perceived and the way they are helped. After all, it’s obvious no one else is going to help them out, and it’s obvious they can’t fight an uphill battle alone.
The homeless have had enough of life’s cruelness and enough of society’s hatred. It’s time we help them.