Picture this: You are sitting with a group of friends eating lunch or dinner on an outdoor patio at a restaurant and you are having a great time. You don’t eat out a lot, but can whenever you feel like. While you are enjoying good food and good company a stranger is maybe walking down the street or sitting on a bench on the sidewalk, or just sitting in an alley way. This stranger is a little dirty, not particularly well dressed and holding the stereotypical cardboard sign. The sign could say anything. From “Wounded Veteran looking for work” to “Will work for food” and the list goes on.
If you notice them at all I guarantee that they at first make you a tiny bit uncomfortable. Some people are made very uncomfortable. Why? Well I suppose that I myself am uncomfortable eating a nice meal and having a few drinks with friends while someone else is right down the block starving. I’m not saying it is wrong to enjoy yourself. I ordered cheese dip for lunch just because I could and ran up a hefty bar tab last night when I went out with friends. However I do think we too often lump all seemingly homeless people into the same group and forget that they each have an individual story. They probably have families, they have loved and are loved by someone. I firmly believe that everyone in this world has something to contribute to the greater good. What I fear most about the rising homeless population is that we are so wrapped up in our own lives, in our tech devices, IPhones and immediate gratification culture that we don’t even see those that are struggling.
Homelessness is hard to measure. I know homeless people with jobs and those without them. Generally people that are homeless do not stay that way or they cycle between having a home and not having one. All of this makes a solid statistic about the number of homeless people in any given place hard to pin down. In my town we have seen a sharp increase in the number of people seeking shelter. There is a video circulating right now called Rethink Homelessness. The video features several homeless people who were asked to write down one fact about themselves and some of the facts are astounding. One homeless person was a figure skater, one has a degree, another gave up her children to save them from a life on the street. Its truly thought provoking. Perhaps the first step to figuring out a solution to rampant homelessness is remembering that a homeless person is still a person.