What comes to mind when you hear the word homeless? A grizzly old drunk passed out in a doorway? Maybe a crazy woman muttering to herself as she pushes a shopping cart? These are the stereoptyical street people. The images that we can joke about or ignore. It's easier than looking past the shell and seeing a human being. Someone who once had a life before poverty. Easier than seeing a Vietnam vet who came home from fighting a war he didn't believe in only to be abandoned by the country that sent him there. Easier than seeing a mother scrounging in the garbage looking for food for her babies. Even if we do see the homeless as real people, we just shake our heads and keep walking, comforted by the fact that those people did something wrong to be reduced to living like that, made mistakes that we'll never make. It's simpler to believe that than to deal with the truth, that it could happen to us. The sad thing is those people living on a park bench or in an alleyway also thought it would never happen to them. Maybe it's a father who lost a job or a wife who lost a husband. Suddenly both find themselves unable to make the rent and were kicked out on the street. What's even sadder is how we've completely turned our backs on these people. The government hasn't even tried to find an effective means of dealing with the problem. They don't run the shelters, that's done by churches or by private funding and even then they are sorely lacking in volunteers. The average person would sooner feed a stray dog than a starving person and that's disgraceful. Is it because today's society holds so little value for human life? Or is it that we're afraid if we get too close we'll be seeing our own reflections in their faces? n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.