How many of you have ever been homeless or know somebody who has? In America homelessness is certainly on the rise. For instance, if you live in or near any of the major cities, such as New York or Los Angeles, it is well understood that the presence of homeless people in the marketplace, library, or even a place of worship, is obvious, and to put it kindly, tolerated. That is to say, to a certain degree.
Yes, overall, it seems to be the case that most people “try” to tolerate those that are suffering from being homeless. Even amid their busy daily routines of hustling throughout the city while chasing a determination to succeed, or during their frantic rush to get their kids off to school on time, they will reach into their pockets and charitably hand a hungry soul a dollar. I myself, as I am sure many of you have acted similarly and gone on your way feeling as though you have contributed in an effort to help.
I would submit, there is no fault to find within a charitable act of kindness.
That being said, we as fellow members of society cannot plausibly claim the best that can be expected are these kind of small charitable acts from time to time as a path towards solving the sustaining problem of homelessness.
Now, I would like to discuss what exactly homelessness is, as well as its causes.
So let us begin by understanding what the definition of homelessness is. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development the definition of homelessness is the condition of people without a regular dwelling (www.hud.gov).
In America alone there are estimated to be on any given night 610,000 people experiencing homelessness (www.endhomelessness.org). Of that 610,000 people an estimated 223,000 of those people are in families (www.endhomelessness.org).
What these numbers seem to represent is that not only are the homeless among us, but they are also intrinsically woven into the fabric of society. Which leads me to believe the time is fast approaching when many of us will have dealt with the struggle of homelessness on some level either ourselves or will know somebody who has. In that case, it would only be logical to prepare ourselves for future possibilities of this unfortunate reality that already affects so many by trying to further understand the causes of homelessness and the needs of the homeless.
So what can we do to protect ourselves? Perhaps the best protection would come in the form of a deeper understanding of what the root causes of homelessness are.
Well, many factors push people into living on the street. Homelessness is, in fact, caused by tragic life occurrences like the loss of loved ones, job loss, domestic violence, divorce and family disputes (http://www.homeaid.org/homeaid-stories/69/top-causes-of-homelessness). Of course, other impairments such as depression, untreated mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, and physical disabilities are also responsible for a large portion of the homeless.
I grew up in a retirement community in the state of Florida, where I can testify to having witnessed many of the elderly members of that society falling victim to homelessness. At such a young age I was unaware of what the devastating effects of homelessness were caused by. However, now I understand the struggle that many of the elderly there as well as, all around America are facing when it comes to not being able to afford to pay their mortgage is due to rising medical expenses and insufficient retirement /savings funds.
I see now as an adult that certain measurements can be taken in each stage of life in an effort to stave off the unfortunate circumstance of homelessness. That said, we must never lose sight that even the best efforts of prevention do not guarantee any of us an absolute refuge from the daunting reality that is homelessness. Which is why I put forth the idea that all members of the social fabric truly embrace the practice of compassionate living. Compassion offers a stable stepping-stone to act upon when it comes to the varied circumstance involving human existence.
In closing, I suggest that we all take the time to consider the plights of those strangers we have come to know as the homeless. Those strangers are indeed, in some small way, a part of the larger picture that illustrates our own destiny.
So I leave you with a simple question…
The homeless have been with us from the beginning.
Will they always be separate from us?
Written By Co-Founder of At Home With Didiayer – Christopher Snyder