The December 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, revealed that on a single night in 2017, 553,742 people were homeless in the United States. For every 10,000 people in the country, 17 were homeless. Approximately two thirds (65%) were staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs, and about one third (35%) were in unsheltered locations.
America has always been considered the land of opportunity, a place where the American Dream is attainable, where everyone can succeed with hard work and determination. But what happens when opportunities and hard work only result in broken dreams and disappointments? How do you maintain your hope and faith in the dreams of a better tomorrow when the past years have been plagued with financial losses, loss of loved ones or major health problems? Numerous individuals, groups and organizations believe that homeless or unemployed people are lazy or a nuisance to local communities. People who are down and out are often judged based on their appearance or behavior. For example, when a man holding a sign saying “Will work for change” or a woman pushing a cart collecting cans appears, most people turn away, cross the street, initiate a fake phone call or a conversation with someone who seems more respectful to them.
After reading the 2017 AHAR to Congress, I googled certain phrases, such as “how to live out of your car,” “the safe parking program,” and “homeless survival tips: how to survive the streets.” Anyone will find the information posted online very informative. However, why should there be a need for this form of online content in the first place?
I also read a question on Quora asking why people allow themselves to become homeless and unemployed. As I continued to browse through the other questions on this website, I was surprised at some of the comments which suggested that homeless people who are struggling to get back on their feet. For this reason, I have dedicated this week’s blog post to listing a few reasons why a person may find themselves homeless or unemployed.
Bullying can happen in any number of contexts or locations. Sometimes, it happens online or through a cell phone. Defamatory comments can make a person feel ostracized, which may lead to depression. Unfortunately, this behavior happens far too often in schools, homes, and businesses. The victim of this kind of abuse may abandon their current life activities as a way of avoiding having to face the problem. There are many kids who have quit school or run away from home due to bullying.
Even though some people may call this behavior playful banter, the absence of regard towards the feelings of others is never justified. Each of us craves some form of acclamation or acceptance from other members of our community.
An Inconsolable Life Event
Sylvester Stallone made one of the most profound comments in one of his Rocky movies: “You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.” There are so many lessons we learn while maturing from youths to adults. Life has a way of delivering the most tragic news. Each of us has a different level of tolerance for pain and capacity to cope with heartbreaking moments in life. For instance, Greg was married to his wife for ten years when she died of injuries in a car accident. Terrance was also married to his wife for ten years. Their daughter passed away two years before his wife’s death. When his wife died of cancer, he struggled to cover the costs of her medical treatment after being laid off from his job.
Greg and Terrance both seem to share a similar story. Greg may recover and move on with his life, but Terrance may develop a mentality of self-blame for not being able to do more for his family when they needed him the most. In reality, he did the best he could, considering his circumstances. Still, he may decide that there is nothing left to fight for, so he surrenders to a homeless life.
It’s easy to tell someone “get up and fix it” or “I overcame my problems, so can you” when you have only encountered a fraction of the problems they are facing. At times, we may find things in common in our lives, yet we shouldn’t gauge the strength and will of others to survive based on our own.
Being Mentally/Physically Drained
The human body may eventually experience exhaustion, and the mind of a person may seem unfocused during times of stress. In some cases, a person will expend much energy job hunting, relationship or financial issues, fighting with co-workers, or health issues. For some people, life consists of constant battles. The minute they have conquered one problem, two more arise. Basically, they feel like soldiers attempting to fight off the enemy from all sides while trapped inside a small building, feeling overwhelmed.
Therefore, we can’t presume to understand all the activity in a person’s life. Many people go out in public with a smile. But when they are alone, they feel lonely, depressed and are unable to smile. This state of mind can cause a person to just give up and shut down, especially if they have been engaged in this struggle for an extended period.
The Living Dead
The “living dead” is a term I use to describe someone who is simply going through the daily motions of life but whose consciousness is simply not there. Basically, their bodies are operating as if on autopilot. It’s the same act as when you drive to the store or to work, you don’t really think about where you’re going, because your body automatically follows a routine. You have performed the task so often that it’s a routine activity and requires no thought. The living dead are simply waiting for the knockout punch. At this point, they don’t argue with people or even attempt to establish a daily purpose. A holiday is simply another day and offers no signs of hope.
Anyone who has reached this point in life feels diminished and exhausted. Individuals at this stage in life may find it easier to live as a homeless person and be unemployed. In their mind, they have removed themselves from the struggles of life and the judgment of humanity.
There are programs designed to help the homeless and the unemployed. They do not always attempt to have a person make a full recovery and return to the mainstream of life. We should be careful about judging people who are struggling to eat or to find a place to live. When you think about it, they are the real soldiers in life in some ways.
Look at it this way: most of them have no problem giving others great advice on how to avoid their situation. However, most people will never embrace this wisdom because they are not willing to obtain true wisdom from those wounded on the battlefield of life. Many of us would rather pay to hear the advice of wealthy people regarding success. In other words, a general can send troops off to war with a powerful motivational speaker, but an experienced soldier who’s been in many battles can advise you on how to survive and return home safely.
Finally, would it really damage your reputation to say hello or to take an extra bottle of water or coffee to someone you pass on the street? How about gathering some of those old blankets you just never use and giving it to someone sleeping on the street?
Honestly, you could be saving someone’s life!