A man in the street begging for money, a women on the side of the road holding up a piece of cardboard saying “Homeless, Will Work for Food,” a family sleeping in their car, a tent city underneath a bridge — all these images represent homelessness.
Most people, millennials included, have certain stereotypes about homelessness. They view people who are homeless as lazy, dirty, and mostly suffering from drug problems. Homelessness pervades all aspects of culture and every walk of life.
These views about homelessness were collected from teenage volunteers at South Oakland Shelter during Global Youth Service Day.
Some of these views are actually accurate views of homelessness, while some represent misconceptions throughout society. Many people think that homelessness can be easily solved by giving people money or food. Others believe that homeless people can obtain jobs easily. If there are part-time jobs available, why not apply and start working? Multiple problems lie with that issue. Where can these people receive their social security cards, what do they put down as their address, how will they have clean clothes for the day, do they have transportation to get to work? These are some of the questions that people face when they are homeless.
I am sure a few of you donate money to homeless or give them food. This only alleviates the problem temporarily. If you have the time, instead of giving them money or donating food, show them to the local shelter food pantry. The solution is not to provide quick fixes, but find affordable housing. This solution is deeply complicated and extremely hard, especially with the sequestration cuts to housing and limited resources non-profits are forced to operate with. I could write articles upon articles about this issue, but that is for another day.
When I was younger, I viewed people who were homeless as lazy and dirty and assumed they suffered from drug problems. I started to volunteer with homeless people in college, realizing that these people are from all walks of life. I have met college graduates who were homeless. One person was a college graduate of Michigan State University, started to have health problems, was unable to pay their bills, and next thing they knew, they were out on the streets. Working with the homeless ignited a passion and led me to my career choice. My dream is to be an executive director of a homeless rehabilitation center, providing soft skills needed to balance a budget, teaching them self-sustaining skills to stay out of the system.
Currently, I serve as an AmeriCorps member for the Michigan's Campaign to End Homelessness as a volunteer coordinator. Members of my program serve at twenty agencies throughout the state of Michigan providing direct service to homeless or at risk individuals in hopes of attaining housing. Here are some awesome viewpoints that members have learned about homelessness.
“After working with AmeriCorps and the homeless population I have come to learn many things about the homeless population. The Homeless population can vary. I think society is quick to judge the homeless population, asking questions like why do they have a car? How can they have a cell phone? Educating people is key when it comes to the homeless population.“ -Rachael Sanders, CETH member serving at Housing Services of Eaton County.
“I have several thoughts about homelessness from what I have seen and experienced through my visits. First and foremost, the individual experiencing homelessness is physically and emotionally drained. They suffer everything from stomach issues including diarrhea to anxiety, and severe depression … They feel isolated and alone.”-Hillary Dodds, CETH member serving at Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency.
Clearly, these members' views have changed about homelessness. Even throughout my year serving as an AmeriCorps member has opened up the doors and made me realize how much is involved.
While some of you may argue that people who are homelessness want to stay in the system and want this lifestyle. I will agree on that. There are multiple people who are comfortable with that type of lifestyle. They receive three meals a day, knowing what shelters serve food when, what shelters will allow a bed, where you can and cannot stay throughout the day. Some individuals play the system. The thing that I tell myself is there are individuals who want to get out of homelessness. If I can help one person attain housing, then I will feel like I accomplished something. Unfortunately, my position doesn’t allow me to that (other members do), but I help indirectly.
Some of you will argue that Obama’s legislation that caused the sequestration, some of you will argue that it’s Bush’s fault. I am sure I will receive comments that will discuss more in depth the policy aspect of this problem. That is not the purpose of this article.
The purpose of this article is for you to start realizing that homelessness affects everybody. It does not care if you are white, black, gay, lesbian, rich, poor, or anything. I know there are many other important causes such as domestic abuse, environment, gay rights, refugee issues, and immigration reform, these are all equally important. This is my cause that I am passionate about and I hope to shed some light on stereotypes.