Dialogues

Posted: May 31, 2007 in Homelessness, Misconceptions

Yesterday I had a conversation that I’m trying to figure out. I’m not sure if it was remarkable, peculiar, unusual or something else. More accurately a couple of things the things said to me just as the conversation was winding down started a chain of thoughts that were – well, you’ll see.

While I was waiting for the bus a woman – who I have I seen regularly on that route – started talking to me. The first thing she asked about was my other half. When I told her that my other half had things of her own that needed attending and that I had a number of things that I also had to do the conversation shifted to our "status."  

This woman already knew – or at least had already guessed – that we were homeless, and so she asked about that. And, of course, the subject of how and why we became homeless came up.

As I told her of why and how we became homeless her I could see that she had never thought about homeless happening to people as a result of circumstances that were beyond their immediate control.

Just as the buses were getting ready to leave this woman said to me that although she knew we were homeless she couldn’t figure out why because I seemed "…too smart a young man to be homeless" (her words, not mine).

Throughout the rest of the day I kept hearing those words over and over in my mind: "too smart to be homeless" and it made me wonder if many other people believe that people experience homelessness because their less intelligent than "everyone else."

Now, I don’t want to sound as though I’m making fun of this woman who I spoke to yesterday, but I never thought that lack of intelligence was a prerequisite for homelessness. In fact, I know quite a number of homeless who are actually smarter than the average person. And, they all come from varied backgrounds in ideals, education, theological beliefs, political points of view, work experience, age groups and you name it. Some are extremely talented.

To be sure, not all of them are of genius caliber – as far as intelligence is concerned – but then again, neither are most people.

So that begs the question: Why are they homeless if they are dumb?

Speaking from personal experience I can tell you that it doesn’t matter how smart a person is – homelessness can happen to them just as easy as it can to anyone else. And it doesn’t matter how smart they are. It’s just as hard for them to get out of homelessness as it is for anyone who happens to get caught up in it in the first place.

True, there are some that are able to leave homelessness behind – in what may seem like a short period of time – but it takes them quite some time before they’re able to get up and above the poverty level. Most will forever struggle just to keep from falling back into homelessness. And, many eventually do become homeless again.

Perhaps it’s due to lack of true community support. Perhaps it’s because the price of everything is so high. Perhaps it’s due to a lack of understanding on the part of the mainstream community. Perhaps it’s…

There are numerous reasons why homelessness occurs. There are numerous outcomes once a person does become homeless. There are numerous ways that a homeless person can be helped to once again become a functioning and productive member of society.

And, there are numerous solutions to significantly reduce the numbers of homeless in our community. But it takes hard work and dedication – both from the homeless and the non-homeless.

Is homelessness a result of the lack of intelligence?

Absolutely not!

In fact, it takes a lack of intelligence to believe that it is.

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