Is homelessness a stigma? I asked this question in one of our community meetings, where people who are homeless, formally homeless, or income insecure meet once a week to discuss the issues they face. After discussing these issues, we then come up with solutions to overcome them. The responses really made me sad – listening to the issues of the people affected by homelessness. I thought to put my thoughts in the form a blog to help overcome homelessness as a stigma.
But, where to start? Is it tough to listen to the other problems? Yeah it is. Being humans, we need to listen to their other people’s problems and should work collectively to resolve the problems faced by our fellow human beings. This is mostly attributed by how we perceive a problem.
How we perceive a problem really matters a lot. The same is the case when we perceive people with the problems. The same goes with the community perception of people experiencing homelessness. The issue is that the problem of homelessness is broadly misinterpreted and the people experiencing homelessness are not viewed how they deserve to be seen.
Whenever we see a homeless person, we directly perceive several things about them, and that creates social stigma for the homeless. Perceptions are based on people’s lack of experiences and exposures. People see the homeless as lazy and think they are not able to care of themselves. People see the homeless as uneducated and illiterate. People see the homeless as scary and violent, and always have a fear they will harm others if we come closer to them. People perceive them as drug addicts and drunkards, and they beg for food and other stuff rather than working hard to earn it.
Yes! A minority of the homeless people will do what I have mentioned above, but we need to expand our horizons of understanding of people experiencing homelessness, we need to learn more about them, and to research more to better understand the problems and issues faced by people experiencing homelessness.
Once we understand the problems they face, then our perceptions will be quite changed from the way they are now. Once we start to perceive the homeless as people, then obviously we will be able to help them. This is a common human psyche that we don’t invest our time and money in a wrong place.
Yes! They are the people with a lot of problems, but, have we ever looked at their strength? How strong and committed they are to fight homelessness and to improve their lives. For this, you need to stop some day and spend few seconds with them. Then you will realize how mature, how educated, how fast, how friendly, how civilized, how strong, and how lovely they are.
Yes! Let’s stop stigmatizing homelessness, and start helping to end homelessness in our neighborhoods, our localities, our country, and the world – to make it a safer, sustainable, equal, developed, and peaceful world.