A couple of days ago I received an e-mail noting that I’ve used the phrases "my significant other" and "my other half" in some of my posts. What the sender wanted to know is why I haven’t used my significant other’s name.
That’s a fair question.
The answer is simple. She asked me not to. Out of respect for her and our relationship I’ve chosen to honor that request – a request that I can most certainly understand.
The basic truth is that a large majority of homeless people in this city prefer anonymity when it comes to having the mainstream community knowing their names. But, if you stop and think about it for a few moments, you can see why.
The word "homeless" carries with it quite a few negative and stereotypical connotations – which are, quite often, diametrically the opposite of the reality regarding certain and ever increasing segments of the homeless community. The homeless of today are homeless for different reasons and due to different causes than the homeless of 10 or 20 years ago.
Sadly, due to a lack of public awareness regarding homelessness and its underlying causes, the homeless are invariably discriminated against and stigmatized by the very condition that many are trying to be free of. This stigma produces lowered levels of self-esteem, lack of self-worth, feelings of shame and, even guilt.
Even among those persons possessing strong self-confidence, homelessness does take its toll and exacts a high price.
When I first became homeless I had a pretty good amount of self-esteem, self-confidence and determination. I wasn’t conceited, mind you – I just knew what my strengths were. I thought that I would find a job; work hard; and in short order everything would be back to normal. Things didn’t go exactly as planned.
My homelessness isn’t the result of laziness, lack of discipline, alcoholism or drug abuse. Nor is it due to a lack of education. It is the result of an accident that left me with permanent spinal injuries. That accident set up a chain of events and a downward spiral that culminated in homelessness.
Yet, although my homelessness isn’t "self-inflicted," because of the stigma associated with homelessness, an over-whelming majority of people treat me as though it were indeed my own fault.
Being homeless I’ve experienced shame. I’ve experienced guilt. I have felt ostracized; cut off from society; scorned; ridiculed; and belittled in ways that a non-homeless person could not even begin to understand. And, I’ve even been near to absolute despair.
I’ve met other homeless people who have dealt with far worse. I know one or two who have even contemplated suicide because of the burden that homelessness places on the human spirit.
Believe it or not – there are quite a number of us homeless who aren’t lazy, or criminals, or drug addicts, or alcoholics, or any number of the things that many in the mainstream community believe the homeless to be.
Many homeless have employment but need something more. They need someone to intervene, someone to give them a chance at improving their quality of life. They need someone who will invest in the rescue of another human life. They need a chance.
Most people would be surprised to discover just how many similarities they have in common with a homeless person.
I’m a simple man with humble dreams.
I want a place to live. It doesn’t have to be fancy, luxurious, extravagant or expensive – just clean and cozy. A place where I can feel relatively safe and secure. A place where, at the end of the day, I can find rest and solace. A place where my spirit can be restored and strengthened to face the next day. A place where I can hang memories on the wall. A place where I have a sense of belonging.
I want what most Americans want…
… A place to call "home."