by Kathy Mulady
Often, homeless people are invisible, even though we may cross paths with them every day: the teenager leaving football practice. A mother riding the bus with her daughter. A father watching his son finish a hamburger at a fast food restaurant. An elderly woman reading a book in the neighborhood library.
This week Equal Voice News is sharing some of their stories. You will see their faces and hear their voices. You will discover their strength. And it will shatter your notion of who is homeless.
The people you will meet have master’s degrees, have served our country, they have jobs. Some work full time. Many are children.
“The stereotype persists that the homeless person is a single man on the street. Many believe homelessness is caused by a character flaw, mental health problems or substance abuse,” said Julie Dworkin, policy director with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
“People don’t understand that it is a problem that affects families,” she said.
The causes of homelessness are as individual as the people who are homeless. There is no single story, there is no one-size fits all solution. The answers begin with changing the policies and the laws that allow homelessness.
One thing is certain, more than 3 million people in America, including 1.3 million children, experience homelessness every year. And the number is growing.
They live in cities, small towns and rural communities.
Some are like Shon Robertson in our video “More Than Housing.”
The state of Illinois removed Shon from her parents’ custody when she eight years old. She has little understanding or memory of why. She became a ward of the state until she was 21, when she aged out of the system – and into homelessness.
“You don’t just lose your property when you are homeless, you lose your motivation, you lose your self-esteem, you lose your hope, you lose your chance to be heard.”
Shon found her voice at a creative writing workshop offered by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
“People would think that if you give a homeless individual a house, that the problem of homelessness is fixed,” said Shon. “In reality it is the access to jobs, the access to food, to education, to opportunities, to health care. Homelessness is just the side effect of all the other unfortunate problems.”
We appreciate help in telling these stories from Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN) and Peace for the Street by Kids from the Streets in Seattle.