Queston Of The Week

Homelessness. Have you ever been homeless, or been afraid that you might be close to being homeless? Do you know anyone who is or has been homeless? Do you have any views on homelessness that have been proven right or wrong, or that you’ve changed over the years?

No, I haven’t ever been homeless. I had this conversation with when I was in San Francisco. I made a statement about how sad it was to see all these homeless people (especially teenagers) and realize that many of them really didn’t have anyone they could turn to, not a single friend or family member who would take them in so they wouldn’t be sleeping on the streets. Did they burn all their bridges? Were they truly alone in the world? Was everyone they knew in just as bad of a situation as they were? said, and I remember this clearly, “you will never be homeless.” And I realized at that moment how truly lucky I am, because I knew he was right. I knew that there were enough people in my life with the monetary means who cared enough about me that I wouldn’t ever have to be homeless.

I do know people (or know of people) who have been homeless. Growing up in an upper-middle-class suburb in Chicago, I certainly didn’t meet any homeless people. It wasn’t until after I went to college that a shelter was built in my hometown (the only one in a several-city area). But in college, I volunteered with several groups and organizations, and eventually worked at a few, that put me in contact with lots of homelessness.

My original views on “the homeless” were drastically shattered when I lived in San Francisco. While I had a heart for the city and wanted to help, I think I went into that summer being afraid of them, as if they were going to hurt me, as if they were all dangerous, or that they were all drunkards. I was so very wrong. I also learned that each one was homeless for a different reason, and they all had a different story. There wasn’t one thing that could categorize or classify all of them. That experience really broke down my stereotypes of homelessness. I was able to step out of my privileged upbringing/background and understand another side of the picture (much like when I lived in Arizona and we considered ourselves Apache and were frequently embarrassed by “those white people”).

I’m interested in hearing others’ answers to this, but would like to remind all that the political side of homelessness is still not up for discussion on this blog. If you want to discuss politics, do it elsewhere. Personal stories/recollections/revelations only.