Tuesday, February 10, 2015


I wrote a post here recently about how messy it is to be homeless.  How people don't really want to get involved with the minute details of it.  They'd much rather deal in statistics, reports, studies, pictures, film, documentaries, and articles.  Anything - except deal with the actual people, themselves.

And, I totally understand that.  I myself - although I'd been homeless a number of times - know first-hand how messy it can be; You can't have a simple conversation with a homeless person, without their whole life pouring out, as if they're bursting at the seams.  Why is that? I think it's because they get so few opportunities to vent.  They're used to being ignored, overlooked and bypassed.  So, that - when someone actually asks how they're doing - and sticks around for the answer - they tend to let it all hang out...

Try it, sometime.  Stop - and ask a homeless person how they are.  I doubt seriously you'll get the standard:  "I'm fine, how are you?"  Not because they don't know what the standard response is, but simply because they're NOT fine, and don't really feel like lying about it. What's the point?  It's a waste of time.  And time - to a homeless person - is a precious commodity.  It's not something to be wasted or squandered.  Ask a homeless person how they're doing, and you'll get a myriad of responses.  Everything except "I'm fine, how are you?"  You'll get:
  • "Awww.... Mannn.... I'm tired..."
  • "Good, good... Can't complain..."
  • "I'd be better if my worker would just call me back..."
  • "Well, the Good Lord saw fit to let me wake-up this morning, so I guess I'm alright..."
  • "Hungry.  Say, can you spare a dollar?"

Either that, or simply a cold stare.  We call it The Thousand Mile Stare - that one where they heard you, they're just trying to figure out if you want to hear the truth, or not.

And, what I'd like to say to people is this:  Ask anyway.  Yes, that's right - ask anyway. Because that simple acknowledgement that you presume them to live amongst the human race, without flaw or fallacy is sometimes the lifeline that they need.  Smile, pretend you don't see their rags and bags, that you don't know they're miserable, cold and hungry.  Let them know you know that being homeless is not contagious, even when you secretly think it is.  Sit, and stay a spell, as my wise grandmother used to say.  Listen.  Read between the lines, if they say they're fine (which I highly doubt they will), stay that extra beat of a second, and see if they feel like elaborating.  You might just find you learn something.  Whereas you'll be looking for an opportunity to help them, they just might help you.  Those of you who volunteer know what I'm talking about.  It's not contagious, it's temporary.  But, for that temporary amount of time they exist in a homeless state, a sort of limbo - a painful purgatory - they like to be reminded that life and time are marching on.  They like to be treated as equals, seen as individuals.  It won't hurt, you know - to give fifteen minutes of your time to hear what they have to say.  Stand with them, engage and even - if you can - entertain them.  Entertain their hopes, dreams and current struggles even if you can't relate.  That doesn't matter.  It's your effort, that counts.  I promise, at the end of it - you'll still have a house, and they still won't;  Because, you see - homelessness is not contagious.


  1. This was excellent reading. It made me think about the crying homeless woman I drove past earlier today. I was in a hurry and made excuses for why I couldn't stop, but did pray for her. I will remember what you said here and take some time to talk and show I care in the future. I consider myself a Christian and am ashamed I haven't done this before. Your blog is so helpful. I just read through EACH and EVERY post from 2011 to 2015. I'm being offered a Section 8 voucher and thinking of skipping it. I searched online looking for information to help me decide. I tried to get on the program in 2013, but got scared off because of the mold in the first house I rented. I spent so much time researching... trying to learn about the program and find a home, that it was a full-time job. My father had just died, so I had the money to spend 8 hours a day trying to make use of the voucher. And then fighting the landlord about the mold, and arguing with the Housing Authority. I contacted HUD also. Eventually I gave back the voucher for peace of mind. I couldn't meet the time-limit (even after an extension) for using it. And my family was so grateful to just stay where we were. The rent wasn't super high, and my son and husband (with allergies) could actually breathe. So I can definitely relate to your posts about your son. MY QUESTION: Do you recommend the Section 8 voucher program? I don't know if I should give it another try or just say forget it. ANOTHER QUESTION: Where are you living now? Subsidized, Public Housing, Voucher, or on your own? Did you ever get that basement apartment in a nice neighborhood? I've actually considered that myself! :) I'd really love to hear from you (or anyone) who can offer advice or share your experiences.

    1. Hi, thanks so much for reading my posts, and for the generous compliments. I'll try to answer your questions, now: Do I recommend Section 8? Honestly, I can't. Not as it's currently structured. I'm sure it was a good, productive program at some point in time, but - as of right now - it's nothing but heartache, and headache. It's been compared to a concentration camp, a jail, and a compound. Everything but a home. And, when you're trying to raise children, you want them to be raised in an healthy, productive, friendly environment. HUD neighborhoods just don't provide that. Ok, so enough of that - I think you get my point. I'm living in the same city, and I'm still having to rely on rental assistance, though it's not HUD. The county I live in is so expensive, that it's nearly impossible without getting help of some kind. But, since this is where my son wanted to finish out his education, this is where we stay. I suggest that if you want more feedback about HUD and housing in general, that you join my group OCCUPY HUD. We have in-depth discussions there about the questions you asked, and hopefully you can get advice to aid you in your search. Meanwhile, good luck, and thanks again for your support.