Gem In The Rough

Posted: November 20, 2007 in Acceptance, Friendship, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Relationships, Religion, Stereotypes

Because human beings are by nature social creatures, there is a need to have family relationships and personal friendships. These relationships are vital in helping to maintain the human psyche. However, simply maintaining those relationships that already exist, there is also the need to develop new relationships as well.

Among those homeless I’ve met who have been able to transition back into the community it has been due to the understanding and support of family and friends. But it has been equally due to being able to develop new friendships with other non-homeless members of the community.  

It is this support system that seems to be far more effective than all of the homeless support service organizations and agencies combined in helping a homeless person become reintegrated back into the mainstream community.

It is unfortunate, however, that many of the homeless have the opportunity to develop new friendships with members of the community in which they live because of their homelessness. Because of the stigmas associated with homelessness, the majority of society tends to make a wide berth of avoidance around any homeless person they meet or see. Seldom do they take the time to "get to know" any one individual homeless person.

Even among those who reach out to a homeless person in some form of aid and compassion, there is still an extremely limited amount of actual interaction with that person.

To be sure, most people are busy with a life of their own and "don’t have the time" to make friends with a homeless person. More’s the pity.

It’s my opinion that if they did take the time to "find out" about a homeless person and get to really know them, they might find that they and the homeless person have a lot more in common than they thought. They might even find themselves with a new and "valuable" friend. More importantly, they might discover what "personal" needs that homeless person requires to raise their standard of living and find a way out of being homeless.

For example, if you took the time to talk to a homeless person, you might discover that they have certain skills, and, it could just turn out that you know of a job opening that requires those skills.

As far fetched as the above statement may seem to some, I know of several instances where people have taken the time to get know a homeless person and before you know it a friendship develops. As a result of those friendship the homeless person was introduced to additional people and so on, with the end result of being "referred" to someone or someplace that had a job opening – all of which led to the homeless person being able to become a part of the community once again.

Sadly, however, this type of scenario doesn’t happen frequently enough because of the stereotypical ideas we as a society have regarding the homeless. These stereotypes cause us to segregate the homeless out onto the fringes of the social structure.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m NOT saying that every homeless person will be able to "restored" back into society. The truth is that there are those for whom homelessness has become their preferred lifestyle. They don’t want anything other than to "sponge" off of the rest of society. There are also those homeless who due to their own personal irresponsibility will never be able to be helped.

But then again, until you take the time to give a homeless person the benefit of the doubt and get to know them, you might just be missing out on a "gem in the rough."

More importantly – you might just be missing out a good friend.

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