Who Homeless People Really Are

The best way you can support the work we do at The Homeless Charity is by becoming a Patron for as little as $1/month. It shows the government people care about the homeless and it helps us manage our budget a lot easier. Please click here: Become a Patron!

One of the great parts of working with the homeless is that I get a glimpse into a section of American society that most people don’t.
We all know there are homeless people. If you live or work in a city you see homeless people. But for most of us that’s pretty much where it ends.
That’s not my life. I hang out with homeless people pretty much every day.
I suspect some of the things you know about the homeless are correct. But there are likely other things that aren’t correct.
You probably could guess that people become homeless from things like:

  • Mental illness
  • Alcoholism
  • Drug use
  • Physical and mental disabilities

But did you know that people also become homeless in America because of:

  • Divorce
  • A home fire
  • Lawful eviction
  • Negative cash flow
  • Foreclosure
  • Natural disasters
  • No earned income like social security
  • Gambling
  • No family
  • Low paying jobs
  • Unemployment

The list of ways people become homeless is long and diverse. That list comes from here: Homelessness in the United States – Wikipedia.
You might be surprised how close to homeless we all are.
“Approximately 63% of Americans have no emergency savings for things such as a $1,000 emergency room visit or a $500 car repair…” from here: Most Americans are one paycheck away from the street – MarketWatch
Fortunately, many of us have friends and family as a backup. You can always move back in with mom and dad.
Rocky recently found letters to my mom from her wealthy sister in California. It turns out my aunt would regularly send my mom money to cover the gas bill, the electric bill, the water bill when I was growing up. And even with that it was not uncommon for our utilities to be turned off. Many of us are living by a thread paycheck to paycheck.
The stories of how these people get to where they are is something you might find interesting.
If there is one nearly universal aspect to the homeless it is a lack of identification. No drivers license. No birth certificate. Nothing.
Those documents are critical to getting any kind of support. There is no Medicaid, no food stamps, no Obama phones (if that’s even a thing any more). You can’t get on a list for housing. Nothing. You become non-existent in society.
These documents are often taken in police raids of camps or stolen at a shelter or simply lost along the way.
If you ever find yourself homeless, try not to lose your identification. It will change your life.
From there the stories diverge.
There is a lot of alcoholism. A lot of homeless people love to drink. In a way they are choosing to drink over everything else. But then again, do any of us really “choose” an addiction that takes over our entire existence?
As a one time heavy drinker, I totally can understand the feeling of giving up everything just so I could focus on drinking more. That’s not a rational way of thinking, even though it seems to make sense when you are down in it.
If they could stop drinking they probably would stop being homeless. But that’s a long road that many people cannot follow. If you’ve never had a drug or alcohol addiction you can’t really appreciate the seductive power of that drug. It’s all consuming.
Then there are a lot of people who just can’t handle the daily grind of life.

  • Be at work at 7am sharp every single day.
  • No sick time.
  • No time off for sick kids.
  • You work for a total asshole.
  • Pay your electric bill
  • Pay your gas bill
  • Pay your rent
  • If you’re late by one day the phone starts ringing and the pressure just keeps piling on.

These are things that stable, mentally healthy people can do (if you are one of them you probably can relate to how oppressive daily life is). But if you are depressed or have a mental illness of another sort, this endless grind becomes too much.
If you are physically disabled that’s a whole other pile of suck.
When one thing slips, another thing slips. And then another. And then another. And your family is either in just as bad shape or doesn’t exist.
Life is hard in the best of situations.
Homelessness is not a difficult place to find yourself.
I work with people that:

  • were once certified electricians
  • plumbers
  • home owners
  • farm owners
  • house builders
  • computer technicians
  • contractors
  • Marines with multiple tours of duty

I think a lot of times people believe the homeless are helpless souls that can’t fend for themselves. I’ve actually never seen anyone even remotely like that.
Every homeless person I’ve ever met or worked with has a history of having jobs, having family, having skills.
When you help a homeless person it’s not like you are helping some useless rag doll. These are people with abilities, desires and dreams. They just, for one reason or another, fell out of the traditional construct of society.
You can judge them all you want about the situations in which they have found themselves. But chances are you are doing that just to make yourself feel better that “it won’t happen to me.”
Don’t kid yourself that there is some magical line in the sand of “us versus them”. That there are the homeless and then there are the rest of us.
That’s not the case at all. The homeless are:

  • Your brother
  • Your uncle
  • Your sister
  • They are you
  • They are us

I believe we need to meet the homeless where they are now and not where we think they should be. I think that’s the fastest path to coming up with a better solution than we have right now.
We have the ingenuity, creativity and capability to develop innovative solutions to the homeless epidemic in the United States. We just have to want to do it. That’s all.

The best way you can support the work we do at The Homeless Charity is by becoming a Patron for as little as $1/month. It shows the government people care about the homeless and it helps us manage our budget a lot easier. Please click here: Become a Patron!

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