Last night at the Springfield City Council meeting, a speaker referred to homelessness as a “disease.” While we should always give people the benefit of the doubt that they do not intend harm, the fact is such misinformed statements cause harm to real people.
To promote compassion and dispel ignorance, Helping Hands wants you to understand that homelessness is not a disease. There are a few other things it’s not. And hopefully by sharing correct information, we can overcome stereotyping that drives people apart.
1. Homelessness is NON-DISCRIMINATING.
While there definitely are factors that make a person more likely to become homeless, it can happen to anyone. Right now in our community, there are men, women, and children who are homeless. They are all races and religions – some come from families that are wealthy, and many not. Some people who are homeless have college degrees; many have had careers; some are veterans. People of all ages can experience homelessness. A lot of people are working and experience homelessness – 35% of people who stay at Helping Hands have a steady job. From infants to seniors, men or women, old or young, homelessness does not discriminate.
2. Homelessness is NON-JUDGMENTAL.
Homelessness is not a punishment for people who make bad choices. It happened after a lot of bad things happened to the person or family. Maybe they didn’t make the best choices – but they didn’t become homeless because they chose to be homeless. People who experience homelessness may have a history of trauma (PTSD/ACEs), or a disability, or a job loss, or be fleeing an abusive home. There are many other reasons and we cannot know until we take time to listen to the person experiencing it.
When you think about it like this, we all have a lot to learn from homelessness. When we talk about this issue, let’s always speak with love and respect because we’re talking about human beings who are loved by, and belong to, someone. A lot of the people who are homeless in our community “belong” to Helping Hands and we value their dignity and humanity. They deserve to be treated with respect.
May our hearts and words always be non-discriminating and non-judgmental as we reach out to others. Let’s build up our neighbors instead of tearing them down.