The Homeless Are Different
One of the things people naturally do when they are afraid of something is to distance themselves from it. In a time when most families are one or two paychecks from homelessness, it is reassuring to most to tell themselves that “I can’t become homeless because”
- I am not an alcoholic
- I am not a drug addict
- I am not mentally ill
- I am not lazy
- I am educated
- I have job skills
- I have a family who cares about me
- I have friends who care about me
1, 2, 3: Only 40% or less of the people in homeless shelters are addicted to alcohol or drugs, and/or are mentally ill. Some of them developed those conditions after becoming homeless.
- 50% to 60% of the people in homeless shelters work full-time, some working two or three jobs. Those who do not work at paid jobs are often taking some form of training or doing volunteer work. It is hard work just to survive — a Belltown Herald journalist who tried following the schedule of a street-person one day said, “after two weeks of this, I’d catch pneumonia and die.”
5, 6. Many of the people in homeless shelters are highly educated, often with professional job skills.
7, 8. People have died on the street with family and friends in homes who cared deeply about them. There is only so much you can do if the family resources are strained already, or if an individual’s problems are beyond the resources of the family.
Ultimately, homelessness is simply a state where the problems of the individual exceed the resources of the individual.