Why Are People Homeless

To me, at least, this is the most important question about homelessness.

  • Why are people homeless?
Here’s my latest insight into this question….

I have addressed this question before, to a degree, but, each time I think about it, I see it in a somewhat different light.   Here’s my latest insight into this question….

Different aspects of homelessness seem more important to me at different times, and for that I end up answering questions about homelessness differently.

I had been eating breakfast at the same fast food restaurant, to the point I began recognizing the regular customers, and they, me.    Yesterday, as a way of introduction, one such regular struck up a conversation, and mentioned that he’d seen me in the place several times before, always on my laptop.  He asked what I was working on.   From this question I broke into my spiel about being both a homeless person and a homeless advocate.    As usual, somewhere along the conversation, he asked me why I was homeless.
In the course of attempting to answer that question, I had an epiphany.   I was attempting to address his question by using broad generalities, I was avoiding saying anything specific about myself.   Because of this, he didn’t seem to understand what I was trying to tell him. He seemed skeptical, and in reply, he used his own generalities to dismiss what I was telling him.
Some people, when in conversation, will take on the role of a contrarian.  They do this so as to provoke the speaker into elaborating more,  to give more details about what they are saying.  Yet others just don’t believe whatever they are being told because what was said runs counter to their own beliefs and ideas concerning whatever subject you’re talking about. 
When it comes to the subject of homelessness very few people have any real, personal, experience with it, and so their ideas about homelessness are not accurately informed.   Of course they never really want to admit to being uninformed or misinformed about anything, and so they will talk in the manner of the expert, both in word choice and expression.   And perhaps in defense of their own ignorance, they will dismiss what is told to them about homelessness  From this, its a short jump to being close minded and judgmental.
It seems to me, that to overcome this problem, homeless people need to be completely forthcoming about every aspect of their personal lives, including their homelessness.  
  • Yeah, as if that’s going to happen.
Who ever tells another every single intimate thing about themselves to other people?   All people will be honest up to a point.  But even spouses keep secrets from each other.  Therapy with a professional psychologist can take a long time,  just to build up enough trust between doctor and patient.  And homeless people know that the majority of the population is judgmental against them.  It is any surprise then that homeless people will be less than divulging when someone (often a stranger) asks them why they are homeless?
I do believe that the “whys” of homelessness can be known, can be understood.  But that knowledge does not come easily, can’t be known on a cursory level.    It is easy to blame homelessness on addiction or mental illness or the economy.  But those things are really just symptoms of other deep issues, issues that  require time and effort to reveal.

About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless
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