The Categories

Posted: November 7, 2007 in Bureauacracy, Discrimination, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Stereotypes

One of the things that is the hardest for me to understand about the way the rest of society views the homeless is based on the which of the homeless the community will and will not help.

Let me clarify…  

There are federally funded programs that are designed to help those homeless who have mental illnesses. There are federally funded programs that are designed to help homeless single mothers with children. There are federally funded programs that are designed to help those that have physical disabilities. There are even federally funded programs that are designed to help those homeless who have alcohol or drug addictions.

While I applaud those programs, I still have a major gripe: there are no programs (at least none in my local area that I’m aware of) that are specifically designed to help a homeless person who doesn’t fit into one of the categories outlined in the paragraph above.

If you’re not an alcoholic, drug addict, don’t have a major physical disability, mental illness, or aren’t a single mother with children, you just plain out of luck.

The realty is that there are a large number of "normal" persons who find themselves homeless due to outsourcing of jobs, corporate downsizing, a medical emergency that doesn’t lead to a permanent physical disability and a host of other reasons.

Here is where our contradictory attitudes comes in… since these persons are "normal," as a society we think that they should just be able to just go out, find a job, save some money, find a place to live and get on with their lives. Yet, because they’re homeless, we allow our false perceptions of what a homeless person is to cloud and limit our willingness to actually help them. Because of their homelessness and our stereotypical views of homelessness we set up barriers that curtail their ability to escape life on the streets.

Subsequently, those homeless who truly want to find a way out of homelessness are the ones who have no "category" in which they fit because they do not meet any of the "criteria" for any of the social services programs. They are left to flounder on their own.

Call me a simpleton, but it seems to me that we should be helping those who want to be helped. If we were to focus some of our energies in that area, we might be pleasantly surprised at how many homeless we could help become non-homeless.

If we took the time to be a true support to those who want it… who knows… we might even find that we’ve set up a chain reaction of sorts – one that has far reaching and positive results at significantly reducing the numbers of homeless in our nation.

Sadly however, homeless will continue to rise until we admit to ourselves that the way we’ve been dealing with homelessness isn’t working, that it’s time to re-evaluate our methodology and find a better way of doing things.

And, although I’m sure that someone is going to say that I’m just plain loony, maybe we ought to take the time to ask the homeless themselves how we can help – after all who knows their needs better than themselves?

  1. wanderingvet says:

    Wow, Geewhillickers, What do we do with a non alcoholic? What do we do with someone that is not a skid row joe homeless person? This is the person that leads the social worker to a finger nail biting crisis all right! This is the person that there is no flow chart for. He or She does not fit into any Federal or State Program. This person is told “I am sorry there is nothing I can do for you until you are mentally derranged or become drug or alcohol addicted.” It is not long until they are then. What a society we have here. This is the shame of a nation that we create a series of charts for everything except the person that is Well but just had a mishap of circumstance.

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