every single day of every day of my life i have had somewhere to sleep.
and not just somewhere. i have had a bed to sleep on with blankets to keep me warm and a roof over my head.
not all people have that luxury.
some people do not have a home. and they especially do not have a comfortable bed to sleep on. and this is not okay.
yes, people’s choices and behaviors have led them to their current position. and yes, they may still be participating in some of the same behaviors. and yes, there is more than one reason as to why people are homeless. and no, homelessness does not mean there is something inherently bad or flawed in a person. homelessness means that people need help.
at my internship, i have been working closely with a veteran who served in combat in Iraq and was deployed immediately after 9/11. he is in the process of recovering from his addiction to multiple substances. he is highly motivated. he is kind. he is honest. and his number of days for the sober living place he was staying at have ran out.
there is a wait list. there are more people who are homeless and in need of treatment for substance dependency/addiction than there are services available. and there are people trying. and sleeping on the streets is not helpful to anyone’s recovery.
i met with the veteran today who was visibly anxious and stressed. he was worried about where he was going to sleep. and fearful that it would impact his sobriety. although he had a few homeless shelters to choose from, crowded places are not helpful to his PTSD. it broke my heart.
today was meaningful because he didn’t have to worry about where he was going to sleep. i went to another social worker and we made phone calls, brainstormed, got information, and did our best. we found out he could get an extension. we found two more sober living options. we then searched the entire agency to tell the Veteran the good news. his eyes watered up. he coughed to clear his throat and prevent from crying.
he is not weak. he is a soldier who has came back to the united states and is having a really hard time.
i did not do anything special. i 100% was doing my job. but i cannot even begin to express what it felt like to tell him that he absolutely did not need to worry about where he would be sleeping. he thanked us incessantly and shook my hand. all i wanted to do was cry.
regardless of the circumstances, i do not believe in allowing people to suffer. in deciding that because of someone’s past they deserve to go hungry or sleep under a bridge. i understand that some people will disagree. and that is okay. but before you write these people off, i challenge you to learn about poverty. to learn about who is homeless and why they are. and it is more complicated than you think.
did you know that it is estimated that 23% of the homeless population are veterans?
somehow, that just does not seem right to me.
people who are homeless do not need our judgement. what they need is a place to stay and food to eat. some need mental health services. some need medication. some need treatment. some need job training. some need employment. and all of them need help.