Thinking Out Loud

Posted: August 1, 2007 in Compassion, Homelessness, Self Esteem

For most people, life is a basic struggle to make ends meet. They find that most, if not all, of their time is given over to just trying to survive and try to get through the week.

People who are homeless have the same basic struggle – with some extra struggles thrown in.  

I’ve met homeless persons who have given up the struggle. They’ve consigned themselves to a life of homelessness. The desire that they may have had to find a way to get out of homelessness has been lost somewhere amidst the struggle just to put clothes on their backs, food in their belly and finding a place to sleep.

Because of the stresses that are associated with homelessness some actually become substances abusers, despite not having had the problem prior to becoming homeless. Some begin even experience mental or emotional breakdowns as a direct result of homelessness. Moreover, most homeless begin to suffer from poor physical health the longer they are homeless. Even those individuals who are generally cheerful and optimistic by nature find themselves losing their self-esteem.

Personal and family relationships become casualties to homelessness. Families are torn apart. Parents disown their children. Couples find themselves arguing over the smallest and mundane of events.

But by far, it is the human spirit within a person that is broken – and sometimes it is broken to the extent that a person begins to seriously contemplate the taking of their own life as they become overwhelmed by despair.

For those who are able to escape life on the streets, the emotional, psychological and physical scars that they have acquired during their homeless experiences last a lifetime. They carry within them a burden of shame and embarrassment that is ever present with them.

I’ve always believed that homelessness is an affliction – one that has long term negative effects on a person. But the affliction doesn’t end once they escape life on the streets. It is carried with them for the rest of their lives.

Although I have yet to come across a report that outlines the long term traumatic effects that experiencing homelessness has on a person, I imagine that it must be one that reduces a persons ability to ever truly feel "at home" no matter how successful they may become afterward.

Perhaps one day – hopefully in the near future – society will open up its eyes and see that it’s our social and moral duty to do everything possible to help those who suffer homelessness. It’s up to those of us who can make a difference to do so.

The Dalai Lama said:

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."

  1. unimportant says:

    All this talk is cheap and easy…are all homeless people on such a tight budget?

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