It's amazing what you can "see" once you've lost everything you had or thought you had. My personality and goals in life didn't change when I became homeless so why all of a sudden is it ok for others to treat me or people like me, differently? Our society has this weird addiction to defining who we are by what we own, as if somehow materialism makes you a better human being. If anything, I've learned that things don't make you happy and might make you un-happier but when it comes to having the necessities of life, what's necessary to you?
The reality out here is that life is a day to day struggle and from what I've seen, more people are joining the ranks of that struggle because of all the budget cuts we're facing that directly impact the poor getting poorer and as people get poorer, help becomes scarce but at the same time, the level of apathy towards the plight of the poor goes up! The number one thing I've noticed from my own experience is how other people treat you once you "go homeless" or are on the brink of becoming homeless. There's this interesting dynamic of assuming there's help available from local agencies without really knowing if that assumption is true or what the reality is of getting help and how long that actually takes.
Never assume people have family members they can impose upon for help because it seems obvious that they don't if they're already homeless. Many relatives are struggling with their own finances as it is not to mention that many families who do double or triple up discover that it is taking longer to get back on their feet than they thought it would. It's also true that if mental health issues are involved, relatives may choose to avoid contact with individuals whose behavior alienates them from everyone they know. I myself have noticed that a lot of energy gets spent on assuming the reasons behind becoming homeless instead of actually doing anything to prevent or help people get out of it and that behavior isn't relegated to strangers because everybody does it. Maybe you're doing it right now!
In case you didn't know, there isn't just one reason for homelessness yet the one thing that would end it is the same: housing! Staying housed depends on different factors, like a regular income high enough to pay for housing (and not losing that job!) or affordable childcare for working families but if you can't afford to keep a roof over your head, support services won't matter! Most people can take care of themselves IF they have the necessary tools to do so but that consideration seems to escape people's notice especially when they're too busy assuming the worst about people!
I've heard people say that it's hard for them to understand what it's like for homeless folks but I disagree with that statement because it's not hard to understand, it's just difficult for people to WANT TO understand because it's not easy to care about what happens to other people when you're worried about your own circumstances. No one wants to become "one of those homeless people" everyone looks down on because somehow they're not regular human beings like everyone else, right?
From what I've seen, most homeless people aren't like everyone else because most of them care when everyone else gave up on them and they have learned to survive and even overcome situations others can't even imagine but for those who cling to their judgmental views, think before you speak. When people become desperate, they'll do desperate things, things they never imagined they'd have to do just to survive from one day to the next. Now imagine having to do that year after year after year while trying to hold down a job or two while not being able to afford healthcare, food and stable housing. You don't have any friends or relatives that can help so you're on your own. You go to several agencies and end up playing the "if you qualify and wait and see" game that is inherent with social services that will take up your time but won't immediately put a roof over your head and every day that passes wears deeper on you than you thought it could. You start wondering how long you'll be stuck "out here". How long do you think you'd last living this way and if you have limited options, how would you survive?
Like I said, it's amazing what you can "see" after you've lost everything you had or thought you had.