“Oh, great. This person again. Always asking for spare change. Why don’t they just get a job with all this time they spend begging for money? I bet if I gave them money they’d just spend it on alcohol or drugs anyway. They probably aren’t even homeless. I’m sure they would rather be doing this than working anyway.”
Is this what goes through your mind when you see a homeless person?
November 14th-22nd is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Our hope is that, during this week, you’ll experience a change in perspective. Please take a few minutes to learn about a real issue that leaves people suffering physically, mentally, and emotionally everyday.
The homeless population in the United States on a single night (as of 2015) is 578,424. Homeless means residing in places that are not meant for human habitation. Causes of homelessness range from unemployment, to domestic violence, as well as mental illness, addiction disorders, and lack of affordable housing and or healthcare.
4 Things You Need to Understand About Homelessness
- It is Extremely Difficult to get out of Homelessness
There seems to be an assumption in our society that people’s inability to make the right choices in life is the cause of their homelessness. The fact of the matter is that there are many factors that lead to homelessness that may be out of someone’s control. Examples of these include physical/mental disability, running away from an abusive situation, being kicked out, financial crisis, and unaffordable health care. Think about this: Even if a person had a minimum wage job, in many areas there is no way they could afford a place to live.
It is a common assumption that if a person is homeless, they do not have a job. There are many cases in which this is not true and the person simply does not make enough money to afford basic necessities. If they have children, this becomes even more of a struggle. For those that don’t have a job, think about how difficult it would be to get one: walking in to fill out an application in their regular attire, possibly without having showered, wondering what address to provide, with no reliable transportation. Now think about someone homeless with children. On top of all of these obstacles, who will take care of their children? How will they do laundry? If they are suspected of being homeless, do you think that will decrease their chances of getting the job? Will they have enough nutritious food to keep them functioning properly while working?
With all of these obstacles getting out of homelessness is not an easy task.
- Hunger is Small Part of the Problem
If you do any kind of daily physical activity, you know that if you haven’t eaten, your body will struggle to keep up. You know that for your body to take on the day, it requires something nutritious to fuel it, which brings us to the real problem, nutrition. In big cities, finding food is not the problem. Shelters and soup kitchens serve food regularly and the homeless community knows where to go to get a meal. The problem lies in the quality of the food that is being given out. Most food given out to the homeless community is not meant to be nutritious, it’s simply meant to fill you up. What we put into our bodies is directly connected to how we feel and function. Meals that significantly lack in nutrition result in exhaustion and illness – a daily struggle for the homeless.
- Homelessness Can Happen to Anyone
If you only see homelessness as someone in raggedy clothes asking for money, you have some rethinking to do. Many of us don’t realize that we could have talked to someone homeless today and not even have known it! Some homeless people can afford to stay in hotels, or barely get by staying at friends houses. The issue is their lack of a secure and consistent home.
- Helping for You is Not Helping
When you see a homeless person and are compelled to give them change from your pocket or something to eat it’s important to ask yourself “why am I giving?”. Are you giving because you truly want to help, or are you just giving to ease your personal guilt? Of course we are not saying that you shouldn’t help in these ways, however if we don’t focus on how to really help then the issue will remain. When we see a poor man on the street, we may initially think “he must be hungry” so getting him food would help. However, we really don’t know what someone needs until we ask. If you really want to help, ask. Maybe the man is in desperate need of socks, shoes, or lotion for dry cracked skin. Recognizing an individual’s real needs, if even for just that moment, can transform their life.
We hope you leave today with new insight and perspective on a real issue that affects hundreds of thousands of people each day. If you want to truly make a difference, having a better understanding is the first step. How will you make a difference for someone in need? Share you act of kindness with us on our Facebook page.