I get a lot of emails which ask me questions about homelessness. Most of the time, they are questions I’ve already addressed somewhere on the blog, so I usually just refer the person to that specific post.
Every so often though, an "old" question is asked in such a manner that it causes me to see that topic in an entirely new way. Then, there are questions which make no sense at all. Or rather, I should say that the question is one, which had the person taken just a few moments to consider what it was they were asking, they would have come up with the correct answer on their own.
For example –
Yesterday evening, I received an email from a Phillip S. which asked this question:
"Is it okay to make assumptions about someone based on homelessness?"
For me the pivotal part of the question is in the word "assumptions" – which has its root in the word "assume."
The dictionary defines the word "assume" the following way:
Take to be the case or to be true; accept without verification or proof
The answer therefore is – and always will be – an unequivocal "no." It is NOT okay to make assumptions about someone just because they’re homeless. Period. End of story.
Making assumptions about anyone – homeless or non-homeless – under any circumstances is foolishness. Yet, a sizable number of folk make assumptions about the homeless quite often. And, for the most part, these assumptions are negative or derogatory in nature.
Actually, it seems to me that making assumptions about a person because they’re homeless is just a bit arrogant and prejudiced. It presumes things which are based on stereotypes and misconceptions. Moreover, it shows a lack of intellectual integrity.
The only true difference between a person who is homeless and a person who is non-homeless is having a place to call "home."
Personally, I have always viewed homelessness as a social affliction; a state of suffering due to some form of adversity: in this case, the adversity being not having a place which offers a stable living environment.
It’s easy to assume that every homeless person is lazy and unwilling to work. But, there are a lot of senior citizens – folks who have worked all of their lives and are now consigned to trying to exist on a fixed income – who are homeless. What then? Should we expect a 70 year old to have to go out and try finding employment just to prove that they aren’t a bum?
It’s easy to believe that every homeless person has some type of addiction disorder. But then what about the 1 million plus children who will experience homelessness this year? Do we actually believe that they are drunks or drug addicts?
It’s easy to assume that every homeless person is able bodied and should have the ability to go right out a get a job. But then what about the 8.5 million people who have a place to live but who are currently unemployed? If they – having a place to live – are unable to find employment, what chance does a person who is homeless have? Many homeless are passed over for employment because of being homelessness. Let’s face it; due to a lack of an adequate wardrobe, the homeless do not always have that freshly laundered appearance. That in itself works against them; puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to finding employment.
It’s easy to assume that the homeless are of an unsavory character. But then, if you take the time to check the news, you’ll see that the world is full of unsavory characters – most of which have a place to live. I mean, think about it… when was the last time you opened up a newspaper and the headlines declared that some homeless person had bilked a company out of millions of dollars? Yet, it isn’t uncommon to read of some corporate official who is under some investigation or other for some manner of malfeasance.
Think strong and hard about the question you asked.
What do you really think? Do you truly believe that it’s fine and dandy to make assumptions about someone based on their being homeless?
Also, consider this: if you were the one who was homeless, would you want others making assumptions about you just because you just happened not to have a place to live?
I’m willing to bet that you wouldn’t like it one bit.