The recent bitterly cold weather has gotten me thinking more lately about those stuck out in the elements, without a warm place to go. I wonder, as I am driving home from work at two o’clock in the morning, “How many of them will die tonight from the cold?”
I recently watched a documentary film called “Invisible Young“, which explores the homeless youth in Seattle, WA. I was surprised that some of the kids became homeless as young as age 13. 😦 The thing that struck me the most about everything else in the film is that when asked what was the hardest part of being homeless, so many of them replied, “Feeling invisible, like we don’t exist. No one meets your eyes when you’re homeless. You just feel like no one even sees you.”
Homelessness is a HUGE social problem that not many people want to discuss, let alone DO something about. A lot of people don’t know what they CAN do to help, so they do nothing. There are three stereotypical assumptions that most people make about the homeless that are identified in the film:
1) “They have people; That somewhere, there’s a decent family. Maybe there was a falling out, or this teen might have gotten in an argument, didn’t want to give in and so they left decent people.”
2) “They’re choosing this lifestyle.”
3) “They have the skills to go out and get started. I bet you have people, you have resources, you’re just being lazy.”
Sometimes, these things are the case. But not very often. More than likely, the homeless you see are there because of bad life circumstances, abusive situations they were trying to escape, no family or friends to help, job loss due to down-sizing and subsequent foreclosure on their homes…very, very few of them choose to be homeless.
Not many of them “have someone” or “have resources” that will help them. Not many of them start life on the streets addicted to drugs or alcohol, but those things are pervasive in our society’s underbelly and lots of them start using drugs or alcohol once they become homeless to try and escape the horrors of the everyday reality in which they live. The drugs or drinks make them numb to the despair, make it easier to just get through and survive another day.
Now that the Holiday Season is over, people forget about being charitable. They go back to their normal lives, their homes, their jobs. And sadly, the homeless go back to being invisible.
“The National Coaltion for the Homeless estimates that nearly 700 homeless people die of hypothermia each year. In early January, 4 homeless people died of exposure in the San Francisco Bay area, which was gripped by unusually cold temperatures. Last week a homeless man died of hypothermia in Chicago.” ~ Source
So what can you DO to help? Look for ways to help locally. Here are some links to get you started:
Homeless Shelter Directory to help you locate resources in your area
Sparesomechange.com will help you find Groups and Organizations that help needy people/those in trouble
Justgive.org lists 35 ways you can help the homeless today!
Contact the National Alliance to end Homelessness to find out more about how you can get involved and make a difference.
* Collect some blankets, coats, buy some hand warmer pads to distribute to those homeless people you can locate.
* Make a big pot of chicken soup or chili and hand it out.
* Donate to local churches or shelters who need extra food for their pantries.
Remember…“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~ Ian MacLaren
Warm hearts, like mine, like yours…won’t end the homeless problem right away, but maybe it will make the cold a little more bearable for them.
© 2014, essay, Corina Ravenscraft, illustration, Ursula Vernon All rights reserved