Homelessness Beneath The Surface

By John Alexander, Voice vendor

As we go about our daily routine, many of us have seen or have had contact with homeless people standing on the corner at an intersection, waving a sign saying “anything helps.” 

Most of the people in our society believe all homeless people are shiftless, lazy, and no-good alcoholics and drug addicts. They think people who are homeless will never amount to anything. 

You may see homeless people going in and out of dumpsters, loitering on the streets. You may say ‘I gave a homeless person some money and watched him go straight to the liquor store or to buy some dope.’

Yes, that is sometimes true. These things happen. But when we look beneath the surface, society is just looking at the side-effects and byproducts of homelessness. You are looking at a person who has become complacent and given up, who has surrendered to the situation he is in. He has encountered the world of homelessness and he has not been able to find a way out. He has lost all hope. How does a homeless person on the streets feel that he can solve the homeless problem when experts and government leaders are throwing up their hands saying, “we don’t know what to do?”

Tomorrow, when you see a homeless person hanging around the parks or digging in the dumpster, remember what you are looking at is the effect and byproduct of being homeless. 

What is the final product? A person who is homeless and hopeless. Where does a person who is homeless and hopeless turn? Many people in these situations turn to the use of drugs, alcohol, and suicide. 

There are three main stages a person may experience when entering the world of homelessness. The first is becoming homeless and the shock of losing your home and all your possessions. Then you enter the second stage of loneliness. 

You now sleep outside. You live outside. Your whole world is of the outside. For many people, the streets are very frightening, especially when you can see no end to the cold, dark, unfriendly nights. People like me have an advantage living on the streets. 

The streets were my playground. When I first became homeless, going to the streets was like visiting old friends. 

Wherever you do find a place to sleep for the night, the days on the streets are no friendlier or better than the nights. Things start all over again. “Where will I go tonight? What will I do? What can I do today to help myself?”

As a homeless person, the reality is that you are trying to cope with your reality or escape. This is the intersection where so many of us make the wrong choice and turn to stage three: the road to addiction, drugs, and alcohol. 

Many people try to escape from pain: toothache, a back ache, depression. A homeless person also wants something to take him away from his reality, and many of us turn to some mind or mood-altering potion to give us a way to cope or escape. 

A person who does this has often entered the world of addiction. When you see someone like this next, look beneath the surface and you will see that what you are really looking at is not a helpless person but the side-effects of homelessness. ■