When I say “homeless person,” what picture pops into your mind?
Something like this?
Would it surprise you to know that there is actually a much larger segment of the population that is homeless, but doesn’t actually live on the streets?
* These people (men, women, and children) lack a permanent, fixed residence.
* They are staying with successive shelters, friends, family, people from church, etc.
* They are couch surfing.
* They are bunking in an extra room or basement.
* They probably do not pay any rent or very minimal rent.
* Just because a person is homeless does not mean they use drugs.
* Many have jobs.
* Some have degrees from reputable universities.
* They might have been part of a round of “down-sizing” or the like, perhaps their jobs were cut to get rid of the higher salaries so the company could replace them with kids who don’t draw as high of a salary.
* Perhaps they even managed to stay in their homes for a while, until the money ran out and the bills caught up with them.
* They might have run from domestic violence.
* They might have been “stay at home” parents thrown out after divorce.
* They could be Veterans with or without mental or physical difficulties.
* They could hold two or three part-time jobs, since so many businesses are no longer hiring full time employees, so they don’t have to pay benefits.
* They might own a car or they might take public transportation.
* They might sleep in their car and pray the cops don’t come banging on the windows at night, sleeping only when the sun is down.
* When you live in your car or on the street, you have no place to shower, use the bathroom, or cook decent food.
* Often, a majority of their income goes to transportation and sustenance.
* Some refuse all government assistance.
* You cannot tell if a person is homeless just by looking at them. They do not always carry trash bags filled with their worldly goods or push their “stuff” in a grocery cart. Their car might be filled with plastic bins of clothes and food. They might have a small storage unit in which they keep their valuables, extra clothes, comfort type things and tangible memories they are holding on to until they once again have a place of their own.
As long as we continue in our prejudices and our assumptions, we can’t fight the issue. I don’t have the answers and I had to take a hard road to understand that this issue is much bigger than I ever imagined.
The people on the street desperately need our help. That is not in dispute. They are so often just walked past, overlooked, ignored…
But what about the other homeless? What about those spending a week or month here and there? Even staying for several months, but without any kind of security? Not knowing when they will be asked to leave? Making enough money to afford a place with a kitchen and a bathroom feels so far away for them. They are the unknown, unseen homeless.
Imagine the joy of putting their own name on a lease. Someplace where they can stay as long as they can afford it. A week-by-week economy hotel is not the same. They pray for a place where they can rest their head at night. They want a place that is safe from the bugs at night. Perhaps safe from vermin. A place where they can cook a meal or even just heat up a boxed meal. A place where they can sleep in pajamas and maybe stay in the pajamas all day on their day off and not have to explain to anyone.
I want to be completely open and share my heart with you in this blog. This is one of the hardest things I have ever had to write:
I am one of those homeless.
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/benbeiske/5455821258/”>Ben Beiske</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>