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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 December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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