Bits And Pieces

Posted: January 14, 2008 in Compassion, Family, Homelessness, Hopes, Misconceptions, Morality, Stereotypes

There are quite a number of different things happening all at once in my life. It’s part of the everyday struggles that most people go through. For me it’s a bit more of a struggle than it would have been as little as 3 or 4 years ago.

There are several reasons for that.

One, I’m getting older and although I like to think of myself as having just as much vigor in life as I did when I was 18 or 19, I know that it’s just not true. I’m at the age where I had envisioned that I’d be relatively settled. Fate saw it otherwise.  

Second, having experienced homelessness for a little over two years, I found that I’ve somehow managed to get out of practice at dealing with certain situations with as clear of a thought process as I did before I became homeless.

It isn’t that my mental faculties are really any less than they were before I experienced homelessness. When a person becomes homeless, however, the main focus is on just trying to survive from one moment to the next. It’s about trying to make sure that you have food in your belly and a place to sleep.

The result is that, many of things that you thought about in your "previous" life become somewhat surreal. You know that at one time you had a life, but the memory is a bit blurred. The edges aren’t as sharp as they had been at one time. You find yourself dealing with situations and circumstances you can in no way ever be prepared for. I imagine that it must be even harder for a family who becomes homeless.

Just this morning I stopped to talk to a family who has been homeless now for just a little over a year. They have a small boy about 4 years of age. They also have another one on the way. Although they tried sounding optimistic about things turning around for them, and expressed hope that they might be getting off of the streets sometime soon, the look in their eyes told a different story.

As they sat waiting for the bus, you could tell that they were trying to maintain as neat of an appearance as possible. Yet, since they were toting their "luggage" with them, it was easy to see that this was a family who had been homeless longer than just a month or two. These – unfortunately – were seasoned veterans. They’d seen and had been through a lot in just a year’s time.

You could see a weariness in their eyes – even a bit of sadness. A great weight seemed to press down upon their shoulders. Even their young son, who was "playing" with his dad, seemed to be a bit more subdued than any child his age should be. At his age, this little boy’s only concern should be what type of milk and cookies he will be getting in preschool today.

After I had introduced myself, I asked them a few questions about their homelessness. The story was similar to many that I’ve heard. They had found themselves experiencing hard times financially. First there was the loss of a job. Afterward, not being able to find a job that paid enough to keep a roof over their heads. Eviction. And finally the streets.

More and more I’m finding that the homeless of today are just folks who have hit a rough patch in their lives. Yes, there are still those homeless who are as a direct result of their actions or inactions: drug or alcohol abuse, gambling addictions, mismanagement of finances, crime and etcetera. There are even those who deliberately become homeless.

Yet, it’s folks like the "people next door" who are more and more often becoming homeless. The economy is going south, the price of housing continues to go up and people just don’t have the financial wherewithal to maintain.

Senior citizens who have worked all of their lives and are living on a fixed income are finding it harder to pay rent, pay for their necessary medications and still be able to afford to eat. Just one little financial emergency and they find themselves homeless.

Several day ago, I was speaking with a lecturer in the Teacher Education Division at Cal Poly University. She asked a question that echoes what I’ve been asking for a couple of years now:

"How is it that the United States, which is the most prosperous nation on the face of the earth, has so many homeless and no one seemingly cares?"

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