Homelessness. It’s an ugly reality in America and yet, so often times we turn the other cheek. We pretend it doesn’t exist. When we see someone who is homeless, often times we think of those people as lazy or filthy or unfit. You would probably never know that homeless man or woman used to be someone. They used to have careers, a family, and jobs. They used to have lives before they became homeless. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 11% of the individuals in the adult homeless population are veterans. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, roughly 20 to 25% of the individuals that are homeless suffer from some kind of mental illness. Six percent of those individuals suffer from severe mental disabilities.
The majority of people in American society are homeless because of external circumstances. Many Americans are still recovering from the 2008 recession. The cost of living in most areas of the United States is not equal to what Americans are bringing home each month in wages. Grocery prices are on the rise and so is the cost of fuel. Many people have to choose between feeding their families and putting a roof over their heads; sometimes the choice isn’t an easy one to make.
The subject of this blog is should we help the homeless? Are they deserving or worthy of our help? Growing up, I was taught to be open minded. It wasn’t until the recession in 2008 that I began to understand what it means to be someone with an open mind. I’ve never been a wealthy person. For many years my mom and I were middle class until the recession in 2008. My mom lost her job and finances were tight. It came down to paying rent or buying groceries. We decided we preferred a roof over our heads to food in our stomachs. I used to joke that I could stand to lose some weight anyway. I’ve felt what it’s like to go hungry; it’s not a pleasant feeling.
Yes, we have assistance programs in place, but unfortunately there are people out there who abuse the system. They make it difficult for those who really need it to get it. They also give those who need it so desperately a bad reputation, thus the negative attitudes in American society towards the homeless and the poor. Those who have jobs and all the creature comforts we desire do not understand what it is like to struggle. To go hungry. To be afraid of what’s next. There is also a severe lack in homeless shelters across the United States. Many cities do not have enough to provide for the number of homeless citizens.
Those who are homeless deserve just as much help as those who are not. There are thousands of people who come to America each year to make a better life for themselves. For their families. When tragedy strikes such as in the event of a natural disaster, we are quick to provide those individuals with food, water, and shelter. For everyone else, we want to judge them for needing these basic things because they can’t afford it.
The homeless people in America are just that; they are people. We live in a nation that prides itself on providing for its people, for being the nation people want to escape to in the hopes of making a better life and yet we are so quick to judge. My mom likes to use the phrase “There but for the grace of God go I”. Every person deserves help, even if we think they do not deserve it. No one deserves to know what it feels like to be hungry. To not have a bed to sleep in. To lie awake at night in fear.
I’ve never been someone big on faith, but I’ve had circumstances happen that I feel as though God has made happen for a reason. To teach me to be more open minded than I have been, to be less judgmental, and to remind me that I am human. To show me that just as quickly, I could be part of the population we frown upon so much and are almost afraid of in American society.
Yes, I believe that we should help the homeless because they are people. They are living, breathing human beings. They used to be someone. Just because they are homeless doesn’t mean they can’t be that someone again. Everyone deserves a chance.