What does homelessness look like?
When you picture homelessness, you might get a mental image of the people waiting outside the Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter. Maybe you picture a man, 40-60 years old, bearded, and in dirty or disheveled clothing. That’s certainly what many people still picture when they think of homelessness.
It’s possible the vendor who just sold you this paper fits that image. It’s also equally possible that he—or she—doesn’t.
Sometimes the VOICE gets phone calls from customers who are worried that the person they bought the paper from wasn’t actually experiencing homelessness or poverty. Those customers are concerned because they think the vendor in question looked too normal to actually be homeless.
When people define “homelessness” as something starkly different from themselves, it becomes easier to ignore the issue.
Part of our mission at the Denver VOICE is to break down stereotypes concerning homelessness, and the stereotypical idea of what homelessness looks like is a big one we are working to change.
According to Metro Denver Homeless Initiative’s 2015 Point-In-Time survey, the biggest group of people experiencing homelessness in the Denver metro area is families with children.
James Gillespie, director of development at Aurora’s Comitis Crisis Center, was interviewed for the feature article that begins on page 8, part of our feature spread on Denver’s hidden homeless. I think he put it best: homelessness is a symptom, not a diagnosis.
I realize that, to a certain extent, I’m preaching to the choir. In buying the Denver VOICE and interacting with the vendor who sold it to you, you’ve already become part of the dialogue.
Help us continue the dialogue by sharing this paper with someone you know. ■
If you have something to add to the conversation, say it! Post on our Facebook page at /denvervoice or email firstname.lastname@example.org.