What does it mean to be homeless?

The word homeless gets thrown around like so much garbage being thrown into a can, but what does the word actually mean?  It’s pretty easy, it just means one that is without a home.  For a word that is relatively simple and easy to understand, why does it conjure up so many emotions, views and opinions.  There are a number of views of the homeless, I’m not saying all of them are untrue.  Here are just a few:

  1. Lazy and loafing
  2. addicted
  3. crazy
  4. out of control
  5. smelly
  6. no ambitions
  7. overly sensitive
  8. hard to deal with
  9. misunderstood
  10. volatile

These are only ten words and yet if I sat here for an hour or so, I could probably come up with 100 more to negatively describe the homeless.

What if I changed my viewpoint and made the choice to only see the positives of the homeless instead of the negatives.  Some of my words might include:

  1. ingenious
  2. inventive
  3. problem solvers
  4. survivors
  5. thinkers
  6. adaptable
  7. unassuming
  8. hard workers
  9. challenged
  10. curious

All of these words about the homeless are true also, yet they are all positive and they state what it takes to be a homeless person.  So the question is, why do we choose the negative over the positive when talking about the homeless.

The images that we see in the media and through our front door are of a person who is dirty, addicted and insane, this person hasn’t taken a bath in over a month and has not taken mental medications for at least that long either.  The press loves to latch onto this image and use it as a way to force the masses to give money to organizations that will help the individual and get them into a better place.  This one image has been used countless number of times to solicit pity and empathy towards the homeless, what it has also unknowingly done is cast every homeless person as that one guy out in the streets.

If you ask a homeless person to tell you about their situation, you will get a million different responses, because homeless people are individuals and their life stories are as individual as they are.  There is no one reason why a person becomes homeless.

As a person who has been homeless many times, I have fought with depression, anxiety and a host of other problems- but I have never been addicted and/or arrested.  I know that I am not the only person out there whose never been to jail.  But the image of homeless people naturally brings up the out of control woman who has been arrested 20 times.

I’m not saying that there are people who are not addicted and who have never been to jail, but my point is that you must first get to know the person before you judge their current housing situation.  There are many, many reasons that a person ended up in their situation.  Each person is a star and no two stars are alike, they all came from a different place and went through a very hard journey in order to end up where they currently sit.

This is just one thing to think about the next time you see a homeless person.

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