Can You Be Sure?

Posted: June 27, 2008 in Family, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Self Esteem

Over that last few weeks, on more than one occasion, I’ve written about the mortgage crisis and how I believe that some of the folks who have been foreclosed were going to end up homeless. In addition to that, I also mentioned that because of the economy being in the doldrums that there were also a lot of people who were facing evictions – and that some of them would end up being homeless.

This morning, in my emails inbox I found a number of news alerts which have confirmed my "predictions." One in particular caught my eye.  

The article, on the USA Today website, was called, Hitting Home: New faces join ranks of the homeless.

The article begins with the dilemma of Tracy Mosely, a single mother with five children. Although she is a renter, foreclosure is about to take its toll on her family.

The house in which she been renting for a year went into foreclosure, and then sold at auction. She is uncertain when she and her children will be forced to vacate the premises. Unless she is able to find somewhere else to rent that is within her ability to pay, she and her children may find themselves at a local homeless shelter.

The article gives this dire picture,

"Mosely is one of the faces of a national real estate crisis whose most grievous victims are increasingly facing the ultimate fate: homelessness. With more families on the cusp of having nowhere to live, thousands of both former homeowners and renters are winding up in shelters or turning to charities for food or other aid to get by."

The statistical numbers which the article presents aren’t all too encouraging:

  • 61% of local and state homeless coalitions say they’ve seen a rise in homelessness.
  • 76% of displaced homeowners and renters are moving in with relatives and friends.
  • 54% are moving to emergency shelters.
  • 40% are already on the streets.

Ever since I began writing this blog, I have been saying that not all of America’s homeless fit the stereotype. Not every homeless person is lazy; a drunkard; a drug addict; or unwilling to work. A large number are just average everyday folks who found themselves in circumstances that were beyond their control. They come from all walks of life; diverse political, religious, educational and ethnic backgrounds. They are your relatives; friends; neighbors; fellow church members; co-workers. They are the face of America.

Despite this however, there is the persistent myth that the homeless are at fault for their own homelessness; that they’ve given up on themselves.

To be sure, there are those who are homeless due to their own actions. There are even those homeless who – as peculiar as it seems to me – prefer being homeless and living on the fringes of society; content to take whatever "table scraps" that they can get. But more and more, they represent the minority of America’s homeless population.

The reality is this: bad things can, and do, happen to good people. Homelessness can, and does, happen to good people; folks who are just – like the rest of us – trying to keep their heads above water. Once they become homeless, one of the very first casualties is their self-esteem.

One sentence from the article describes this attack on one’s self-esteem with extreme acuity,

"Losing one’s home and having nowhere to go can also leave former homeowners emotionally wounded, seized by a sense of failure and shame."

But it doesn’t end there.

Once a person finds themselves homeless, their self-esteem is further wounded by the treatment they receive from those members of the community who are ignorant of the many causes of homelessness. Unfortunately, there are more people who believe the stereotypes – and subsequently react accordingly – than there are those who are willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

Additionally, since the majority of homeless support service agencies and organizations are still primarily providing only the most basic of services – which usually consists only of a meal and a bed – there is little by way of the types of assistance to help the homeless back into the community. As the time which a person remains homeless lengthens, the sense of shame and failure can become overwhelming. Even those who had a healthy amount of self-esteem prior to becoming homeless find it difficult to maintain enough of a positive attitude or the stamina to forge ahead.

Homeless families with children are the fastest segment of America’s homeless population. They represent approximately 33 percent of all homeless in the U.S.

Imagine being a parent and having to live at a homeless shelter with your children, or in your vehicle, or even having to sleep tucked away and hidden out of doors somewhere. You’ve found yourself homeless due to circumstances beyond your control. You may even still have your job, but it doesn’t pay enough to get you off of the streets. You have nowhere to turn. Homeless support services are unable to do more than offer you a meal and a bed. They might provide you with a list of other agencies that may be able to help, but there are no guarantees. The future for you and your family is precarious.

How would your self-esteem fare? How would you feel when the rest of the community treats you like an outcast?

Wouldn’t you want someone to lend you a helping hand; someone who might provide you with the ray of hope that you need?

Is homelessness an actual possibility in your life?

You might not think so right now. But can you be sure?

Consider this: there are a lot of people on the streets of this nation’s cities who never thought that they would ever experience homelessness either.

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Comments
  1. Michael,

    That article is so powerful and true. It doesn’t take much to just look around and listen to what is going on in our own communities. These are scary times for many.

    I was just talking with a family that is having to “downsize” at all levels of their lifestyle. Emotionally they are devestated. In the begining they were more concerned about how they would be perceived by friends associates. Then they relized that they were not the only ones having to “downsize”. Some are even getting rid of their homes at a loss and relocating to another city or state. These moves are being made with many uncertainties. They may not become homeless, but it certainly is something that enters more into regular discussions.

    I again have that image of the sign you were holding in front of Food 4 Less.

    Blessing my friend.

  2. Marie says:

    Saw your blog and wanted to say THANK YOU!

    I’m just now starting to write about my experience — was in my van for 6 months and in shelters after that, then transitional housing and now supportive housing.

    Because I live in a community of formerly homeless folks, I feel that I have not yet re entered the “real” world. I hope that by writing about my experience and sharing it with others, I will begin to feel, once again, like I am part of humanity.

    When a person becomes homeless, they don’t just lose their bed and belonging but a sense of humanity. That is harder to come back from, harder than getting housed again.

  3. michael says:

    Jose,

    I read an article several weeks ago, which cited numbers from a recent study – the results showed that approximately 80% of the American public has, at one time or another, worried about becoming homeless themselves.

    Despite current claims by HUD that the numbers of homeless in the nation have remained “stable” – studies and polls conducted by repected polling companies and organizations have shown as much as a 22% increase in homelessness, requests for emergency shelter and requests for emergency homeless services.

    Homelessness can indeed “afflict” anyone.

    Marie,

    Thank you for sharing the reality that when a person becomes homeless they “…don’t just lose their bed and belonging but a sense of humanity. That is harder to come back from, harder than getting housed again.”

    I encourage you to share your experience with as many as will listen… you’d be amazed at the impact it can have at helping others understand the struggles that the homeless face – but more importantly, it helps to break down the stereotypes.

    My best wishes for a speedy “re-entry” back into the community.

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