From Hope To Despair

Posted: August 20, 2007 in Homelessness, Hopes, Self Esteem

There is an old saying that goes:

"The eyes are the windows to the soul"

I don’t know who said it or when it was first spoken, but it is true that you can tell quite a bit about how someone is feeling by just looking in their eyes. The eyes can also betray underlying personal difficulties.  

There is one homeless gentleman I know quite well. He has been homeless for about 2 years or so. Normally he is pretty optimistic about things despite being homeless. When he gets a chance to work he does. If he can’t find work, he goes out and does some recycling to put a few dollars into his pockets. When all else fails, he goes out and panhandles. He doesn’t use drugs, nor is he a drunk. He’s just trying to maintain as well as his present circumstances will allow.

Lately however, on those occasions when I have seen him there is both a weariness and look of defeat in his eyes. The stresses of homelessness have begun to take its toll on him. Somewhere along the way, he seems to have lost a lot of the optimism that used to drive him: optimism that kept him looking forward to the day when he would be able to get out of homelessness.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this change started to occur in him, but now it’s quite noticeable.

All of his mannerisms have begun to show the wear and tear of a lifestyle that most people in the community cannot begin to imagine having to live through.

Whereas he used to walk with a spring in his step, lately each time I see him, he seems to be walking with a great burden on his shoulders. His steps are slow and seemingly measured. The laughter that used to erupt from within him at the drop of a hat is no longer there. And, he’s become more and more withdrawn from everyone and everything.

He used to engage freely in friendly conversations with others – quick with a joke and a mischievous smile. Now, when he finds himself having to interact with other people, you can tell that it is taking a great effort of will for him to even speak a more than just few words. The smiles appear so rarely that many people when they see him think that he’s angry or upset all of the time.

With all of the apparent challenges and struggles that he has had to face as a result of being homeless, he still seems to be trying to get out of homelessness – yet, not with the same determination that used to drive him. Now it’s more mechanical movement rather than a passion for life that propels him through the motions of living day to day.

He’s not alone in his struggle though. There are many homeless who – like him – have lost their sense of hope after having to experience homelessness for a period of time. And the longer they remain homeless, the harder it is for them to find some small inner strength enough to survive day to day.

How long before they finally reach the point of total despair and give up all desire to live?

No one knows…

  1. Jose says:

    This is so tragic and so real.
    We are currently editing another documentary about mental illness and we are showing what a struggle it is for families to go from dispair to hope and survival.
    It is so tragic to hear about this member of our community having to go from hope to despair….
    It shouldn’t be this way.

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