This article is about people who manage to stay invisible in the contemporary society, where new means to watch and control the life of every of its members appear with each passing day. You encounter them every day, or at least once or twice a week, if you are lucky enough to dwell in a wealthy neighborhood. You’ll manage to recall this fact only if you strain your memory, as this is the encounter you’d like to forget. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most of us prefer to ignore the homeless every time we see them; our glances go past them as if they were some stocks and stones.
Those people are excluded from the society’s life, thus the others are subconsciously afraid to have something in common with homeless. Their condition is seen as something infectious, like leprosy or plague. When talking about homeless people it’s important to remember that there are much more of them than we actually see. “Those, whose homelessness is apparent…. (who) fill the long-held stereotypes of bums, derelicts, winos, or the insane, are only tip of the iceberg” – Ropers writes in the Public Affair Report: Bulletin of the Institute of Governmental Studies.
Thousands of homeless people walk by the streets of our cities unnoticed, as they just don’t look like the stereotypical bums. Most of U. S dwellers tend to underestimate the quantity of homeless in America because of this fact. The majority of people know little about the homeless except for the facts that they live on the streets, they are dirty, and they steal. “It’s very offensive when people, even the social workers or volunteers, begin to suspect you’re going to take some their things when they get to know you are homeless” – Anna, a 19 year old homeless girl confesses. Most of the U.
S citizens see homeless people as the representatives of the specie different from theirs. They neither expect the homeless to exhibit the intellectual capacities average or higher than average, nor to have normal human emotions and desires. “Some people on the streets who see me, treat me as if I were some rare animal in the zoo cage, like okapi or white tiger” – Joseph, a men who’s been living on the streets for seven years already, says. “The mothers on the streets sometimes point to their children that I’m dangerous, and that they shouldn’t go near me, as if I could bite or eat them.
I would never hurt a child, I swear! ” The main problem with the society’s attitudes towards homeless is that we don’t realize that the dirty people sleeping in the parks, attics or half-ruined buildings are also someone’s parents, children, husbands and wives, as the article found on the Friends of the Shattuck Shelter Website notes. We prefer to consider them to be lazy, sick or immoral just because we are afraid to believe that almost no one is protected from loosing his/her dwelling place.
People don’t want to think that in case they’ll loose their job the next day they also may have to search for shelter on the unwelcoming streets. Homeless people are just like you and me, they have their joys and sorrows, desires and emotions and most of them desperately long for having a place they could call home. There are various reasons for which those people turn up on the streets, like poverty, unemployment, family disputes and breakdown, sexual or physical abuse, a background of residential care, experience of prison or the armed forces, drug or alcohol misuse, school exclusion or poor mental or physical health.
People become homeless after leaving the parental home after arguments, marital or relationship breakdown, eviction, becoming a widow, discharge from the armed forces, leaving care or prison, sharp deterioration in mental health or an increase in alcohol or drug misuse. (Why People Become Homeless, Simon Community Website). As you probably know, the amount of the working poor in the U. S is great. Those are people, who spend long hours on their work places just for to earn some money for to pay their rent and buy food.
The majority of those people have problems buying clothes and other necessities, not even mentioning paying bills or insurance. Most of those who have the low-paid jobs don’t possess any qualifications, they mostly have no special education and some of them even don’t have a high school diploma. As the amount of unqualified labor force in the U. S is greater than the demand on it, in case such a person loses his/her workplace, he/she has enormous problems finding another one. Peter H.
Rossi, the author of Down and Out in America: The Origins of Homelessness, notes that those are the working poor who are the risk group for becoming homeless. Irma Redman, a retired social worker, agrees to this viewpoint, saying that most of her clients turned up on the streets after they lost their jobs. She explains that while the middle and high-income families usually have some savings that allow them to keep the decent level of life until the one who brings the bacon home finds a new working place, the life of people, whose income is low, is often ruined because of the dismissal or retirement of the breadwinner.
They don’t have money to keep paying their rent, thus they have to search for a place to live, and for something to eat and wear. As you understand, it is very hard to find a decent job without having a place to live, and it’s impossible to rent a flat without being employed. Those people live in a damned circle, and only few of them actually manage to break it. The statistic says that a considerable part of those, who don’t have a stable place to live, are teenagers and young adults.
For them the usual reasons for becoming homeless are conflicts with parent or other relatives that live in the same apartment. It’s apparent that loosing home in teenage years is one of the most tragic things that can happen to a person. The thing is that most of those, who turn up at the streets at their early years, don’t have any qualifications or education. In a couple of months the youngsters learn how to survive on the streets, and they often do it more successfully than the older people, but it’s much harder to rehabilitate them and return to the normal society.
Those people usually have great troubles even realizing the necessity of employment, not even mentioning difficulties they experience trying to find a job. The Journal of Sex Research provides data that around 20% of homeless youngsters are GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered). (Whitbeck et all, 2004). Thus it’s clearly seen that it the question of gender and sexual orientation identity is the reason of homelessness for a considerable part of youngsters who dwell on the streets.
Alice Lynch, the mother of the homeless girl who was cited at the beginning of the article, is one of the parents that didn’t manage to cope with her daughter’s coming out. When Anna confessed she was a lesbian Alice was desperate and cried that she didn’t want to see her any more. At that day Anna gathered her belongings and left. Alice hasn’t heard from for two weeks, and when her daughter finally called, she refused to come back home despite of her mother’s appeals. It had happened two months ago. At a present time Alice is sleeping at her friends’ apartment.
Now Alice and Anna meet once or twice a week, and Alice hopes that her daughter will soon come back home. As you see, it’s rather easy to become homeless in our days, and no one is insured from that. In the same time, being homeless is one of the nastiest experiences one can get. The thing is that homeless people aren’t seen as humans in our society. Those of the, who are visible are just the unpleasant view we all prefer to avoid, and we rarely care about that homeless people we don’t notice. Unfortunately, the society’s position is expressed in the words of Nancy Sullivan, one of my interviewees.
“Well, I don’t see why should I think about homeless unless one of them is sleeping at the flower bed in front of my window. Than I’ll just call police. ” – she says. But who knows who is going to be next resident of that flowerbed? Just remember that homeless is not a diagnosis and that you can do something to help at least one person return to the normal existence. Works Cited 1. Ropers, R. The Rise of the Urban Homeless. Public Affair Report: Bulletin of the Institute of Governmental Studies. University of California, Berkeley, 1985 2. n. d. Who are “the homeless?
” Friends of the Shattuck Shelter Website. Retrieved December 8, 2005, from URL http://www. friendsoftheshattuckshelter. org/html/homeless. htm 3. n. d. Why do people become homeless? Simon Community Website. Retrieved December 8, 2005, from URL http://www. simoncommunity. com/Why_People_Become_Homeless. php 4. Rossi, P. Down and Out in America: The Origins of Homelessness. University Of Chicago Press, 1991 5. Whitbeck, L. et al. Mental disorder, subsistence strategies, and victimization among gay, lesbian, and bisexual homeless and runaway adolescents.
Journal of Sex Research, 2004 6. Redman, Irma. Personal interview. 8 December 2005 7. Lieberman, Joseph. Personal interview. 8 December 2005 8. Lynch, Alice. Personal interview. 8 December 2005 9. Lynch, Anna. Personal interview. 8 December 2005 10. Sullivan, Nancy. Personal interview. 8 December 2005 Contact Sheet Irma Redman retired social worker irma195@yahoo. com Joseph Lieberman a homeless person Alice Lynch the mother of the homeless girl alice_lynch@ yahoo. com Anna Lynch a homeless person anita19@fastmail. fm Nancy Sullivan a housewife nancy_s@usa. com