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10 Things About Homeless People that Everyone Needs to Know

10 Things About Homeless People that Everyone Needs to Know

The next time you pass a homeless person on the street, try to envisage what really went wrong and why they ended up there. Dismissing all these people as failures, drop outs and drug addicts is grossly misleading. It is time to reflect on the real reasons for homelessness and look at individual stories to get a more rounded picture. Here are some facts and stories to help us do just that.

1. They are not all victims of poverty.

The main cause of homelessness in both the USA and the UK is poverty. But the homeless are not all drop-outs or professional failures. Did you know that almost 1 in 10 homeless persons in the USA are veterans? They had difficulties in adjusting to civilian life, had mental health problems or were suffering from PTSD. Los Angeles has the highest number of homeless veterans, now estimated at 6,300. Many US cities are now committed to ending homelessness and have ambitious projects to do so.

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2. They may be female veterans who are at increased risk.

You may be shocked to know that the number of female veterans has actually doubled in the last few years, making them the fastest growing group of homeless in the USA. It is also disturbing to note that 1 in 5 women soldiers suffered sexual harassment or assault while serving the nation. The Department of Veterans Affairs now says that these women are four times more likely to end up with PTSD and/or with alcohol and drug addiction. The next homeless woman you see may have fought for your freedom and security.

3. They may be escaping war, disease and death.

Many homeless people have escaped catastrophes which are beyond our imagination. Take the story of Jimmy Thoronka from Sierra Leone who is now under arrest. He was a champion sprinter who took part in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last July. But just before he was due to return, he learned that his adoptive family had all died from Ebola. His own parents had been killed in a civil war some years ago. He decided to stay in Britain but his money and passport were stolen. He was just another homeless person who has become emaciated and ill, after a very hard winter on the streets of London. He will probably be deported although a crowd fund campaign has collected £10,000 which may go to securing a better future for him. There have, fortunately, been countless offers of help, accommodation and food. Jimmy is probably one of the luckier homeless people in the UK.

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4. They may be homeless children.

We sometimes associate homelessness with the adult population. But the statistics tell another, rather harrowing story. Of the 600,000 homeless people on the USA streets every night, up to 25% of them are children or teenagers. They may be camping out in cars, parks, or other risky areas. The National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) estimates that there are about 1 million homeless children who are attending public schools. This figure includes those waiting for adoption or who are in transitional accommodation which is why it is such a high figure.

5. They may be victims of domestic violence.

We sometimes think that many homeless women are on the streets because they have lost their job, partners or housing. But the statistics tell a different story. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NCCHP) calculates that 90% of all homeless women are there as a result of domestic violence. It is heartbreaking to think that homelessness may be the only alternative when escaping from physical and sexual abuse.

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6. They may be on the streets because of climate change.

Like it or not, climate change is responsible for some major natural disasters. The NASA website provides us with some startling figures for weather related disasters worldwide caused by global warming. The figures point to an increasing number of deadly storms. Inevitably, this results in staggering numbers of homeless people.

7. They may not have been able to pay their rent.

We sometimes imagine that homeless people made a choice to abandon everything and live a carefree life. In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth. It is when people on lower incomes have to fork out more than half their salary for renting miserable accommodation that financial disaster looms. This is another reason why so many people are homeless today. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty estimates that the US needs 7 million low cost accommodation units to remedy this housing crisis.

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8. They may be regarded as criminals in some states.

You might think that a homeless person would be assisted by the state or some local authorities. The reality is totally different. In some US states, authorities are cracking down on begging, homelessness, and loitering by making these criminal offences. According to one report, at least 18% of US cities now regard sleeping in the open as a crime. This number is increasing.

9. They may be desperately wanting to get back into society.

Perhaps we think that homeless people never really want or wanted to work. In many cases, this is not true as many people sought jobs without success and were forced into poverty. The story of Colin in London is a heartening one. He went from travelling the world as a freelance photographer to ending up with 56 p and a few clothes, including a top hat! He was determined not to look like a homeless person and sneaked into hotels to wash himself. Wearing a top hat certainly helped! Being clean helped him to maintain his morale. With help from a street outreach team, he was helped with a subsidy to find accommodation. He began to work in Spitalfields Market and soon he was running his own stall selling veteran clothing, including top hats, of course!

10. They may be talented people.

There is so much stigma attached to the homeless that it is difficult to overcome it. One campaign has started to show homeless people with placards revealing their many talents, skills and handicaps. Speaking several languages, biology graduates, recovering from open heart surgery, being born deaf, the range of stories is surprising. The next homeless person you meet may not have a placard telling you their life story, but why not give them the benefit of the doubt?

Featured photo credit: Homeless man on the street is being cold via shutterstock.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

In business, in social relationships, in family… In whatever context conflict is always inevitable, especially when you are in the leader role. This role equals “make decisions for the best of majority” and the remaining are not amused. Conflicts arise.

Conflicts arise when we want to push for a better quality work but some members want to take a break from work.

Conflicts arise when we as citizens want more recreational facilities but the Government has to balance the needs to maintain tourism growth.

Conflicts are literally everywhere.

Avoiding Conflicts a No-No and Resolving Conflicts a Win-Win

Avoiding conflicts seem to be a viable option for us. The cruel fact is, it isn’t. Conflicts won’t walk away by themselves. They will, instead, escalate and haunt you back even more when we finally realize that’s no way we can let it be.

Moreover, avoiding conflicts will eventually intensify the misunderstanding among the involved parties. And the misunderstanding severely hinders open communication which later on the parties tend to keep things secret. This is obviously detrimental to teamwork.

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Some may view conflicts as the last step before arguments. And they thus leave it aside as if they never happen. This is not true.

Conflicts are the intersect point between different individuals with different opinions. And this does not necessarily lead to argument.

Instead, proper handling of conflicts can actually result in a win-win situation – both parties are pleased and allies are gained. A better understanding between each other and future conflicts are less likely to happen.

The IBR Approach to Resolve Conflicts

Here, we introduce to you an effective approach to resolve conflicts – the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach. The IBR approach was developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 book Getting to Yes. It stresses the importance of the separation between people and their emotions from the problem. Another focus of the approach is to build mutual understanding and respect as they strengthen bonds among parties and can ultimately help resolve conflicts in a harmonious way. The approach suggests a 6-step procedure for conflict resolution:

Step 1: Prioritize Good Relationships

How? Before addressing the problem or even starting the discussion, make it clear the conflict can result in a mutual trouble and through subsequent respectful negotiation the conflict can be resolved peacefully. And that brings the best outcome to the whole team by working together.

Why? It is easy to overlook own cause of the conflict and point the finger to the members with different opinions. With such a mindset, it is likely to blame rather than to listen to the others and fail to acknowledge the problem completely. Such a discussion manner will undermine the good relationships among the members and aggravate the problem.

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Example: Before discussion, stress that the problem is never one’s complete fault. Everyone is responsible for it. Then, it is important to point out our own involvement in the problem and state clearly we are here to listen to everyone’s opinions rather than accusing others.

Step 2: People Are NOT the Cause of Problem

How? State clearly the problem is never one-sided. Collaborative effort is needed. More importantly, note the problem should not be taken personally. We are not making accusations on persons but addressing the problem itself.

Why? Once things taken personally, everything will go out of control. People will become irrational and neglect others’ opinions. We are then unable to address the problem properly because we cannot grasp a fuller and clearer picture of the problem due to presumption.

Example: In spite of the confronting opinions, we have to emphasize that the problem is not a result of the persons but probably the different perspectives to view it. So, if we try to look at the problem from the other’s perspective, we may understand why there are varied opinions.

Step 3: Listen From ALL Stances

How? Do NOT blame others. It is of utmost importance. Ask for everyone’s opinions. It is important to let everyone feel that they contribute to the discussion. Tell them their involvement is essential to solve the problem and their effort is very much appreciated.

Why? None wants to be ignored. If one feels neglected, it is very likely for he/she to be aggressive. It is definitely not what we hope to see in a discussion. Acknowledging and being acknowledged are equally important. So, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to express their views. Also, realizing their opinions are not neglected, they will be more receptive to other opinions.

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Example: A little trick can played here: Invite others to talk first. It is an easy way to let others feel involved and ,more importantly, know their voices are heard. Also, we can show that we are actively listening to them by giving direct eye-contact and nodding. One important to note is that never interrupt anyone. Always let them finish first beforeanother one begins.

Step 4: Listen Comes First, Talk Follows

How? Ensure everyone has listened to one another points of view. It can be done by taking turn to speak and leaving the discussion part at last. State once again the problem is nothing personal and no accusation should be made.

Why? By turn-taking, everyone can finish talking and voices of all sides can be heard indiscriminantly. This can promote willingness to listen to opposing opinions.

Example: We can prepare pieces of paper with different numbers written on them. Then, ask different members to pick one and talk according to the sequence of the number. After everyone’s finished, advise everyone to use “I” more than “You” in the discussion period to avoid others thinking that it is an accusation.

Step 5: Understand the Facts, Then Address the Problem

How? List out ALL the facts first. Ask everyone to tell what they know about the problems.

Why? Sometimes your facts are unknown to the others while they may know something we don’t. Missing out on these facts could possibly lead to inaccurate capture of the problem. Also, different known facts can lead to different perception of the matter. It also helps everyone better understand the problem and can eventually help reach a solution.

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Example: While everyone is expressing their own views, ask them to write down everything they know that is true to the problem. As soon as everyone has finished, all facts can be noted and everyone’s understanding of the problem is raised.

Step 6: Solve the Problem Together

How? Knowing what everyone’s thinking, it is now time to resolve the conflict. Up to this point, everyone should have understood the problem better. So, it is everyone’s time to suggest some solutions. It is important not to have one giving all the solutions.

Why? Having everyone suggesting their solutions is important as they will not feel excluded and their opinions are considered. Besides, it may also generate more solutions that can better resolve the conflicts. Everyone will more likely be satisfied with the result.

Example: After discussion, ask all members to suggest any possible solutions and stress that all solutions are welcomed. State clearly that we are looking for the best outcomes for everyone’s sake rather than battling to win over one another. Then, evaluate all the solutions and pick the one that is in favor of everyone.

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