Against The Odds

Posted: September 1, 2007 in Employment, Goals, Homelessness

Late yesterday morning I met a woman who has a degree in psychology. She decided to get a degree in psychology specifically for the purpose of finding work in human resources and helping the homeless.

Some might think that there’s nothing special about that. However, what intrigued me about it was that this woman had been homeless at one time in her life and earned her degree WHILE she was homeless. Her choice to go back to school actually extended her length of homelessness. Yet, despite the odds, she managed to achieve her goals and find a way out of homelessness. Now that is something that definitely worthy of kudos.  

As her and I sat talking, she shared with me some of the struggles she had to endure to receive her degree, the struggles of repaying her student loans and the struggles of regaining a foot hold in the community and rebuilding her life.

Despite having had experienced homelessness, she was not bitter or jaded regarding the past. In fact, she mentioned that she is much more appreciative of things that most people take for granted such as: hot water (she used to bathe and wash her hair using outdoor water faucets and water hoses), bathroom facilities (she had to use public bathrooms), being able to cook for herself, and the list went on.

She also mentioned that at one time in her life she’d had a problem with substance abuse. Her addiction occurred after she had become homeless because she had started associating with some of the homeless who, in her words, were the "wrong crowd."

After she went through the struggle of becoming clean and sober, she applied herself to her studies and ended up earning her degree. Now she’s working full time in a job where her training is applicable.

Although it’s been over a decade since she was homeless, like most persons who have been able to escape life on the streets, she is cautious of allowing others to know of this part in her past because of the stigmas associated with homelessness: stigmas that can last a lifetime.

It is unfortunate that most members of society are unable to view the homeless for what they are: victims.

It is true that there are those homeless who deliberately choose homelessness as a lifestyle, but the vast majority of homeless are not homeless by choice. They find themselves homeless due to any number of unforeseen events in their lives: events that, often times, they have no control over.

There are millions of Americans who are living life paycheck to paycheck. This people are living on the very precipice of homelessness. Some will inevitably find themselves homelessness. Some of them may be someone you know… who knows you might be one of them yourself.

And if you are, how will you want to be seen? Will you enjoy being treated like – in the words of George Orwell – a non-person? Or, will you hope and pray that someone will step up and provide you with the help you need to get your life back on track?

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