For some time I was pondering about the possibilities homeless people have when it comes to breaking out from the downward spirals of the life situation they are in. When doing a little research, I found an article about Heather. While reading it, I started to feel devastating in every single cells of mine and I just keep on thinking about her ever since. You want to hear?
The Story of Heather
Heather is a 58 year old woman living in America. She has worked all her life, until one day she got injured and unable to crawl out from bed. After two weeks she ran out of sick leave. Still incapable of working, loses her job, shortly after her apartment and health insurance. For two years she was living on the family’s and friend’s generosity. After that, having no place in any shelters, she ended up sleeping on the streets, where she was mugged and raped many times. Traumatised, suffering from anxiety and depression, she holds up a sign at the corner: “I’m homeless. Please help!” For that she gets arrested for loitering and violating the anti-panhandling law.
When in need for urinating, she tries to enter fast food restaurants’, office buildings’ or schools’ restrooms. Being smelly and filthy she is sent away with no hesitation. In her despair she hides in an alley to relieve herself, but noticed by someone who called the police and she was arrested again.
Having no money for bus ticket, she is walking everywhere, meanwhile trying to get her paperwork sorted. With blistered and bloody feet she sits on a curb, where she is arrested again for loitering. At night, unable to walk another step, lies down on a patch of grass, where she is arrested again for sleeping outdoors. She has no place to store her few possessions, thus she has to carry them everywhere. Once when lowering her bag down, as her back was aching so much, somebody snatched it from her, stealing also all her papers, that she spent month in great difficulties to get them. And I could go on and on describing her life…
The Vicious Circle
Even though Heather’s story might seem a bit extreme, unfortunately is a common reality in many places. Conducted researches show that many homeless people do want to work, but they find very difficult to break out from the stigma of homelessness. Discrimination is sadly amongst the lead factor in becoming homeless, because it significantly limits the options and choices of an individual when it comes to housing, employment, access to services. Homelessness is then the unavoidable next step, which will restrict them even more. If they don’t have a job, they are forced into other ways of making a living at a minimum level. Unfortunately most of these activities, like loitering, begging or panhandling are becoming increasingly illegal. The question still remains: How can they be expected to step out from this vicious circle, when homelessness is criminalized and surviving becomes illegal?
Is There Any Hope?
After reading Heather’s story I felt truly devastating and in a way helpless, as if facing a giant much bigger than we can even imagine. Homelessness is real and gaining such proportions that it reaches every corner of the big wide world. And just then, when feeling very low because of hopelessness, I came across an article about how Finland tries to tackle the long-ongoing problem of homelessness. It felt like pure light shining in the darkness. I started to feel more positive when reading about the fruitful efforts of the Finnish government in offering housing unconditionally. Since they started to implement this policy in 2008, the number of long term homeless people dropped by more than 35%.
Despite of such great success, it seems that the phenomenon of homelessness cannot be totally eradicated, especially considering it worldwide. BUT… When we start losing hope, feeling that all our efforts are just like a drop in the sea, we should never forget, that the sea is made out of many individual, little drops and ONE OF THEM IS YOURS!
Thanks for reading!