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Last week, I wrote a post about how I’m grateful for the time that I spent homeless and while most of the responses I received were supportive and loving, some of you had said that you never really give the homeless a second thought, that you thought assumed they’re all drunks, etc and honestly? That bothers me. (You won’t find those comments here on the blog, most of the very negative ones were sent by email and no, I won’t post them.)
The thing is though? I can understand it. Really, I can. I used to be like that and trust me…it’s very easy to just ignore what you see and it’s even easier to pass them off with a “oh, that person must be a drunk” or an “I wish these people would get a job,” or something similar. Notice the thought there? “These people.” How many times have you used that phrase in your own thoughts? We’ve been conditioned over and over again to think of the homeless as unequal to us, as less than we are…as less than human.
The entire time that I was homeless, living in that shelter, trying to find a job, trying to give my daughter the best that I could at the time, I was one of “those people.” I remember the looks when people would find out where I lived, I remember the judgement…the fear…the shame. I don’t even allow myself to think about how my child actually felt.
Here’s a sobering statistic for you: On ANY given night in 2014 period, there were at least 194,302 CHILDREN living homeless on the street and since it’s so hard to count homeless kids? That number could actually be as high as 550,000. (source)
So that’s how this post came to be. It’s a walk inside the mind of someone who used to be there, a glimpse into the thoughts of a homeless mom. Hopefully, if I do my job right, these 5 things a once homeless mom wants you to know will give you a better view and maybe, just maybe, tug on your heart strings for an offer to help the next time you see one…instead of judging her and passing her by.
We were once you – Not all homeless people are lazy bums who won’t work and sit on their rears everyday. In fact? Very few are. A vast majority of the homeless population are just like you…or rather once were. They once lived in suburban homes with white picket fences, posh apartments and drove cars that are just as nice (or nicer) as yours. Some of them lost their jobs, some ran from an abusive situation, some were hit with an illness and for a plethora of other reasons, they lost their homes. Sometimes it really does boil down to just not being able to make it.
We’re not all mooching off of the system – You would be surprised at the number of homeless folks who actually work for a living. Want a number to prove it? 44%. (source)
FORTY FOUR PERCENT of our nation’s homeless population are employed.
FORTY FOUR PERCENT don’t make enough money to support a lifestyle other than a homeless one.
FORTY FOUR PERCENT are NOT receiving welfare. They’re NOT living off of the system. They’re TRYING to better themselves.
We’re not all on drugs and are not all drunks –
Yes, there are a significant portions of the homeless community that ARE on drugs or that have alcohol problems, however, not all of them do. Don’t get caught up in assumptions.
We see your judgement – Think that homeless person didn’t see you turn your nose up or look down at them? Think again. They may not say anything to you, but those looks are seen and the snide remarks are heard. Instead of judging them, next time, see if you can help. That action will be appreciated a lot more than judgement.
We’re embarrassed by our situation – There is nothing more humiliating for a mom than to feel like she’s 1. a bad mom or 2. not able to provide for her child. They know that they’re in a bad situation and don’t need anyone to tell us…in fact? They’d rather not even tell you that they’re in this situation. It’s embarrassing and humiliating.
Now by all means, I don’t mean this post to say that all homeless people fit into this mold. They don’t. The cold, hard truth is that there is a large amount of people out there that are just trying to scam, people that are homeless by choice or because of a habit. The point is to show you that they’re not ALL like that. The thing is though? A lot of the time? It can be really hard to tell between the two types of homeless people.
Kindness goes a long way. Judgement and snide attitudes don’t. As my Grandma used to say, “You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”