I once dated a guy who was homeless at one point in his life.
He told me he ran away from a perfectly good home (he found his mother too strict), at the age of 16. He lived on the streets for 3 years, did a lot of drugs, and it wasn’t until he woke up shivering on the sidewalk one day, crawling over to a grate for warmth that he said to himself: What the #$*#& are you doing with your life?
He said it was that morning that he.. “woke up”, and decided to get his life back on track.
Of course, this all ended well because he just had to go back to his mother who was more than willing to help him straighten his life out, and she housed him temporarily and helped him out until he could find a job in a factory, get clean and learn how to live on his own.
He was very lucky and admitted this to me.
He recounted stories of how he had to scrounge for food, look for odd jobs here and there to feed himself, but mostly he did it for the freedom of not having to listen to his mother.
He became a drug addict because of the people he hung out with on the streets who would introduce him to a hit of something, and then ask him to run errands if he wanted more.
I don’t remember much else from what he told me because he wanted to kind of forget all of that, and called it one of his dumbest periods in his life. He did say at one point that it was easier to be homeless than to be a working Joe, however.
He felt as though some people found it very difficult to wake up in the morning to go to work, cycle through 8 hours of work, come home exhausted, only to do it all over again 5 times a week just so they can pay for rent and food, and not much else. “It becomes depressing“, he said, “..and in some ways, being homeless is a kind of freedom from responsibility and life“.
There’s a post from Michelle a long ways back that talked about homelessness and what you would do if you became homeless.
“There is a war against those who are weakest in society and I have a theory about why. We are afraid that we will become them.
So, we pretend like we don’t see the homeless on the street, we pretend that we don’t hear them.
We deny basic contact unless it’s Thanksgiving because usually that’s safe, there is no risk of anger.
There are people around and nothing bad can happen when you’re volunteering.
Recently though I find that I have to work hard on being compassionate. “
Read more of her post over at: Homeless versus The World
Michelle basically made all the points in her post, but I will just go over a few of them that rang a bell with me.
WE DON’T THINK WE COULD EVER BECOME HOMELESS
Never say never.
A lot of us don’t think we would ever be homeless but sometimes you can’t predict what the future will bring (knock on wood).
Being homeless is not simply the fact that you don’t have a place to go home to, there’s a whole psychological and emotional set of baggage that goes along with the fact that you tell yourself: I am homeless.
OUR NETWORKS KEEP US SAFE..BUT WHAT IF THEY WEREN’T THERE?
If you couldn’t stay where you were today, who would you call? I am sure you all have family, friends and others you can call on for help and they would gladly give you a helping hand any time you asked (the same courtesy you would extend to them, I am sure).
…but what if you didn’t have your network in place?
What if you didn’t have friends or family to call on? This actually exists as a situation — people who have family, but can’t go back to them for various reasons (maybe they’re the reason why they ran away in the first place), and perhaps their friends are also in a similar situation and aren’t really in a position to help you, let alone help themselves.
When you are alone, you are TRULY alone.
THEN THERE ARE THOSE WHO PRETEND TO BE HOMELESS
I don’t know if you are aware of this stupid game, but I remember hearing about high school students who purposefully dress and act like they’re homeless, but go home to a family every night. The worst of it, is that the kids I heard were doing this, were filthy rich as well.
They all attended private schools (although they cut class a lot to go “play homeless”), and had everything they could have asked for.
They spend their days and nights on the streets, hanging out with other homeless (perhaps fake homeless) kids, pretending to need money, food and assistance.
To them, it’s a game. A sick game, but a fantasy nonetheless that they can easily break any time they choose to.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
I am not entirely sure giving money directly to homeless people helps them, because I do know that there are shelters available such as missionaries where they can go to sleep in a warm bed, and places like the Food Bank that will give them something to eat.
As I mentioned above, the guy I dated told me that he would just use the money for alcohol or drugs once he was addicted.
Sometimes, he’d use the money for laundry.
He said that he would just go to the Food Bank if he wanted food, which is an utter luxury compared to other countries where they don’t even have shelters or areas for people to go to, to find free food.
I think the best thing to do is to be open to helping homeless people find work (either by giving them such jobs) and to aid them up to a certain point, where they can then go on to support themselves.
It is not easy for them to find work because businesses think they’ll rob the cash register and run off, but there are those who are homeless, who genuinely want to better their life but can’t get a foothold out of the quicksand they are in.
If they don’t have a network of friends or family to turn to, who is going to trust them enough to give them a job?
Being homeless may not have even been their choice in the first place, but it was the only option available to them.
If no one ever takes a chance on someone who genuinely wants to have a different life, then over time I think “homeless” becomes something of a permanent badge that can be very hard to remove after years of being downtrodden.
Other ways to help would be to donate to the local Food Bank, which by the way, also feeds many families who are temporarily in need because they’re currently unemployed and trying to make ends meet.