Who are the Homeless?
The face of homelessness in America has dramatically changed over the years. Most people would agree, the representation of homeless persons in the thoughts of many Americans are negative. The following examples describe some of those stereotypes:
- a drunk, filthy, smelly man riffling through a dumpster
- a bag lady pushing a cart filled with [what appears to be] a lot of junk
- the con-artist pretending to be homeless to get money
Thousands of Dollars on Homeless Dead Man
In a news story from 2009, there was a homeless person found that had thousands of dollars strapped to his body. According to the Mail Tribune article, Homeless dead man found with thousands of dollars on him, the 85-year-old was found surrounded by his belongings. The police could not understand why someone with thousands of dollars strapped to his body would be homeless.
SD shares that stories like the before mentioned story shaped her view of homeless people. She viewed them as con-artist manipulating people out of their hard-earned money. Those perceptions are no longer the reality for the majority of the homeless population in America.
The Present-Day Homeless Population
When looking further into the state of homelessness today, one’s co-worker, classmate, family member or friend could be homeless and doing a good job at hiding the truth about the circumstances of his or her living situation. The question then becomes, “How do working people end up homeless?” The following three articles answer that question.
Tent Encampments on the Rise
The first article was in The Washington Post, The rise of tent encampments is changing the face of American homelessness, by Terrence McCoy. McCoy told the story of a working woman (Monica Diaz) whose apartment building was condemned by the fire department.
All tenants had to evacuate the building leaving Diaz and her husband homeless. They could not stay in a shelter because they had a dog. The shelters did not allow pets so they ended up living in a tent encampment. Her co-workers had no idea until it became difficult for her to maintain good hygiene; she was then fired from that job.
The Clean-up of Tent Encampments
In the second article, Richmond Homeless on the Move Again After City Clears Large Tent Encampment, by Kate Wolffe of KQED News, Wolffe told the story of Cella Jones a homeless woman living in Richmond’s largest tent encampment. The city’s abatement crew was scheduled to do a clean-up; Jones arrived at her spot shortly after they began. She was able to collect some of her belongings before the area was cleaned and mulch spread over the site.
Homeless Because of Rent Increase and Health Issues
The last article shared was, High rents create a new class of hidden homeless in Los Angeles, by Matt Morrison of CBS News. In this story, Morrison told the story of Ana Estrada, a social services caseworker. She and her 13-year old daughter had to live in her BMW SUV because of a $2000 rent increase and then some health issues that caused her to miss work, therefore losing money and their residence.
Forced eviction or Health Problems Leave People Street Bound
Furthermore, some people are living paycheck to paycheck and sadly are only one paycheck away from homelessness. Also, something happens to someone who is renting or has a mortgage, going to work, paying their bills and then all of a sudden, they are thrown this news that the building or home they are living in, is unsafe and must be evacuated– there may be nowhere else to go but the streets. The same result could happen if health issues cause numeral absences from one’s job.
Ways to Aid those in Crisis
Lady V suggests that people in authority take a step back before firing an employee for hygiene problems and ask questions. If that was not the history of that person, try to find out if he or she is having some type of personal situations causing the change. Find out what is needed, and if it is in one’s ability to help that person; then do so. This is well explained in the following scripture,
Matthew 25:35-36 New International Version, ‘35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me…’
Kindness Goes a Long Way
Lady V also shares that showing kindness and helping someone in need is how we all should attain to live. Homelessness could happen to anyone at any time and it does not have to be the loss of a job or an illness. A natural disaster [hurricane, flood, or fire] could also cause homelessness. Be willing to help your fellow man.
In Luke 10:30-37 New International Version, Jesus tells the story of a Jewish man who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead. People crossed to the other side to avoid him, walked by him, or stepped over him, but a Samaritan man stopped and helped him.
Moving forward let’s be The Good Samaritan in someone’s life, that is desperately in need of a hand up.
The Statistics of Persons Without a Permanent Place of Residence
According to The US Department of Housing and Urban Development OFFICE OF COMMUNITY PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT in 2018, the total number of homeless people was 552,830. People counted in that number were families, families with children [180,413], unaccompanied youth [36,361], parenting youth [8,724], and veterans [37,878].
In closing, 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress: part 1, also provided a statistical breakdown by age, gender, ethnicity, and race. In addition, the report also names the states with the highest and lowest rates of the chronically homeless.
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Music by Joakim Karud