To Understand Homeless People

Lets get some things straight.  Nobody completely understands homeless people, and why they are homeless.  But worse than that, most people know next to nothing about homelessness – and that includes people who work in the homelessness industry.

Yeah, I understand that I may be coming across like a condescending know it all, but I admit that I don’t know everything.  Others are not so honest about their shortcomings.  And it’s not like I’m super smart, it’s just that when I hear other people talk about homelessness, including the so called “experts”, their ignorance makes my head hurt.  Trying to make sense of their non-sense is taxing.

 Know this – just because you work in the homelessness industry doesn’t make you an expert on all things homeless.  Feeding homeless people doesn’t educate you as to why people become homeless.  Providing nightly shelter to homeless people doesn’t educate you as to how to end homelessness.

People who run rescue missions and other large homeless services facilities are no different than any other person who administrates a large organization or corporation.  They are consumed with the American capitalist notion that bigger is better, and that other similar facilities are not partners, but competition that needs to be eliminated or neutralized.  And, this is true of nearly all homeless service providers, whether they be faith based or secular. (I say “nearly” only because I have not seen all service providers first hand.  But, all that I’ve seen so far are this way.)  All this, of course is detrimental to the homeless people they serve.  When such organizations adopt new policies it’s always to the advantage of the organization, regardless of it’s affect on the homeless.  If the people who ran these facilities actually understood this, they wouldn’t be doing it.  I hope that’s the case, anyway.  Still, I do not doubt their sincerity in wanting to help the homeless, but so often they do more harm than good.  This could only be because they don’t truly understand homelessness and homeless people.

Across our country, in just about every medium to large size city, there is a movement underway – a somewhat secretive movement – a plan for getting rid of the homeless.  In all these cities, there exists a downtown area in which many of their homeless reside.  Also in these downtown areas the larger businesses have joined together, creating “downtown partnerships” in which they collectively use their financial and political power over their cities to get what they want.   One thing common to all these downtown partnerships is a belief that the existence of homeless people is detrimental to making profits.  Of course this isn’t really true, but it’s hard to convince them of it.

Successful business people are a funny breed.  Once they have achieved success in one aspect of life, they begin to believe that they’ll be successful in everything to endeavor, and that all their ideas are good ideas.  So, when these downtown partnerships seek out help in dealing with the homeless, they don’t go to homeless experts, but to those people who tell them what they want to hear – what they like hearing.   So know, for nearly two decades, these downtown partnerships across the country have been meddling in the affairs of the homeless and achieving absolutely nothing – all while wasting a great deal of money that could have been used to actually help the homeless.   They hire private security firms (Block by Block) and local off duty police, to harass the homeless, think that this would drive the homeless away.  That didn’t work.  I could have told them that, if only they asked me.  They don’t ask me for advice.  They prefer people to blow smoke up their butts.

Ending homelessness requires a true understanding of homeless people, why they become homeless, etc.   So, as long as people come at homelessness with pre existing beliefs and agendas, they will never see clearly enough, beyond themselves, to see homelessness for what it really is.  And homelessness will remain.


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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