What does a homeless person look like? These photos, taken by homeless men as part of a project, show a glimpse of what it's like to be homeless. It doesn't matter that these pictures were taken in Ohio; it could've been Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, or Kansas City. If you think their clothes look too nice for them to be homeless, keep in mind that shelters provide donated clothing, and a lot of that is very nice. These people are keeping clean and neat so they can interview for jobs. They have access to a day shelter to help them with this, and some lived in night shelters, the ones who could get a place.
Do a search on homelessness and you will see the crisis. Many can't get a place in a shelter. They are the ones you see with the not-so-nice clothes. Could you keep clean and neat sleeping in business doorways or underneath a highway bridge? Would you get sound sleep? Could you stay healthy?
Most of the homeless are honest people who got a run of bad luck. There are no more of them addicted to drugs than if you knew how many of your neighbors had drug problems. It's not restricted to a neighborhood. Drug problems make homelessness more likely, and complicate matters, but should we ignore the ones with drug problems and help the others? People with addiction problems are people, too, who made a terrible mistake, and they are paying the price for it, every day.
A significant part of them have too many health problems to be expected to get a job and work. Yet, it is nearly impossible for a person so disabled to have a place to stay while Social Security tries to fit them into the schedule. It's a process that can take over 4 years and require a lawyer. We screen crooks so well that we screen out most of the people who really need Social Security Disability. It is very easy for a disabled person who cannot work to become homeless. It is very easy to lose it once you get it. I have seen a friend lose hers, and to me, it was a clear-cut case of a single mom who needed it. She just wasn't able physically to get up and fight for it again.
More and more whole families are on the streets. If it is very difficult to find a place for one homeless person, how much more difficult it is to find a place for a whole family at once! Many shelters are equipped for singles, because in the 80's, the homeless were mostly singles. That changed in the 90's, and still, there are few shelters that can accommodate a whole family unit.
These pictures mostly show men, but they are not representative of all homeless people. Don't be afraid of homeless people. If a few of them actively beg, would it kill you to give them a dollar? All of them are not fakes [there are impersonators out there]. Most of them wouldn't be caught dead begging. Yet, you can't help all of them. You can help one. Give someone homeless a ride, and maybe a hot meal, if you can afford it. Carry a print-out of shelters in your area [look up http://www.unitedway.org and put in your zip, then search shelters. You might add soup kitchens]. Then, give the list or lists when a beggar approaches you. Be kind, though. Some homeless people don't know how to read. Some might be low-vision. Even so, such a list might help a lot more people than just that one beggar.
Most of all, give to food banks. Give a can of meat, not green beans. Peanut butter is usually on the list. You can use United Way's lists to know what and where to donate. We only use about 20% of our stuff. Maybe you've got clothes you're saving for when you lose weight, or for your daughter when she gets bigger. Think about donating. Make sure all clothes are clean. Don't be shy about donating clothes with stains or broken zippers, though; these might be sent to other countries where they repair first and replace later. You'd be surprised at how good those ladies in third world countries are at cleaning or repairing clothes. Ditto anything donated.
Rethink how you think about the homeless, whether out on the streets, or in shelters and transitional housing. They are no more likely to be criminals or on drugs than you. Most are not homeless for long. Those that are may be disabled and unable to win their Social Security Disability Case or may be waiting for a judgment. Don't assume that those fast-food and paper delivery jobs are so easy to get nowadays; a lot of times, they are not. And, would you think a disabled person can lift those 25- or 50-pound sacks of vegetables up on the table for cutting, for long? Most jobs at minimum wage involve a lot of heavy lifting. I know, because I went from job to job while trying to put myself through college, and I think if I could've found office work, I might still be in the workforce, because I would be healthier. It's easy to judge when you aren't in the situation.
Take a look at the people in these photographs. Do they look that much different than you?