The October edition of the Love Wins Newsletter is out and it features a blog post from back when, as Hugh says, “Love Wins was me, a backpack, and a cup of coffee”. It’s a list of all the things people experiencing homeless deal with every day titled What It Means To Be Homeless. As I read, I was struck by how sleeping outdoors does a number your humanity. Actually, it’s not homelessness that does that, but our reaction to it. And, by “our”, I mean those of us who aren’t homeless.
Becoming homeless has to be a massive hit to your self-worth. I say “has to be” because I’ve never been in that situation, so I don’t have first-hand experience with it. But, being there means you’ve lost almost everything you have to lose. Hugh likes to point out that people are homeless because they lack community and I can see that. The main reason I’ve never been homeless is my family. Several times over the years, my family has stepped in when I was struggling and kept my lights on, paid the rent, put food on the table, etc. While I am blessed like that, I know others who aren’t. Whether it’s their fault, their family’s fault or nobody’s fault, they’ve lost the people who are supposed to care about them when no one else does. If you’ve lost that, what else is left?
So, what does all this have to do with someone’s humanity? Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Let’s say you lose your job and can’t pay your rent. Since you’ve got no family or friends able to provide a safety net, you get kicked out of wherever you’ve been living and end up on the street. You don’t have any prospects of finding another place because you don’t have a job and you can’t get a job because you don’t have an address. To survive, you panhandle, eat at soup kitchens, and sleep in your car (if you’re lucky). Of course, you can always sign up for government assistance. But, the agencies that provide that assistance are stretched to the limit because the economy is the toilet and more and more people need those services. The people who work in those agencies are severely overworked and underpaid and know better than anyone they’re fighting a losing battle since their funding keeps getting cut because some folks don’t want their tax dollars to support “deadbeats who refuse to work”. So, to keep their sanity (and their job), they stop seeing the parade of poor souls whose lives are crashing down around them as actual people and view them as case numbers, problems, etc. Now, let’s compound all that with condescending assholes who think that, since you’re on the street, you’re somehow less than them. They also think that, because they give you a dollar, they get to dictate what you do with it. Pretty bleak picture, isn’t it? Every day, a little more of your humanity is eaten away. And, you wonder why people who are homeless might drink or do drugs?
People are people, no matter how they look, what they do or where they live. And, as you can see, people who are homeless have enough problems without those of us who live indoors othering them. Let them have their humanity, for God’s sake. When you get down to it, that’s all any of us really have.