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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Face of the Homeless

What would the homeless look like to you? Would they be disheveled, and dirty? Would they be wearing clothing that was tattered and torn? Or could they be walking right next to you dressed as everyone else? It's hard to say because homelessness doesn't just apply to the very poorest, the drug addicts or domestic abuse victims. It applies to men, women, families with children, and young adults who have lost jobs, homes, and in some case their own families. So, how do you put a face on homelessness?

I walk everyday and usually come into contact with people who are obviously homeless victims. Sometimes they are sitting at sheltered bus stops, sleeping on benches, collecting money at stop lights and holding signs that say, "I'm homeless" or "Will work for food" hoping that someone will throw a few coins into their can. Most people struggle to look at these people because it is a reminder of the magnitude and seriousness of a growing problem in America.

A report dated August, 2007 from the National Coalition for the Homeless estimated that on average single men make up 51% of the homeless population, families with children 30%, single women 17%, and unaccompanied youths 2%. This of course does not include another group of people often referred to as the "unsheltered" or "hidden homeless" who live in their cars, in campgrounds and in abandoned buildings or other places where they cannot be found.

A national study of formerly homeless people found that the most common places people who had been literally homeless lived in were vehicles (59.2%), with the next largest category (24.6%) of homeless people living in makeshift housing, tents, boxes, caves or boxcars. This gives us all a snapshot of the seriousness of this problem. But more important than the ever growing number of people who are homeless is what progress is being made to end it. Unfortunately, since 2007 the problem has increased and the funding for helping has decreased, and more budget cuts at all levels of government being made now means that even less help will be available for these most vulnerable members of our society.

We all need to search our own souls to see if we can help even a little, if not with money then with time (there is a link on Facebook for causes that will pay .10 for each minute of our time to different causes, basically filling out some type of questionnaire for an advertiser who is paying the dime for our time). How many of us have needed and received some small assist in our past, whether from family or friends or co-workers, etc., to help us over some rough spot? We all take these "leg-up" assists in stride without a second thought and without realizing how easily and quickly fate can take everything away from us. Listen to the voices of the homeless as they tell their stories, many are broke and homeless as a result of two or three problems in their lives (losing a job, having some medical expenses, etc.) that they could not overcome quickly enough to avoid being cast into poverty and homelessness.

If each of us give just a little, we can help change the course of someones life for the better. Please do what you can. And visit the link  for more facts and information.

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