Posts Tagged ‘homelessness’

Homelessness is sooooo funny, right? Right?!

I love Halloween. I love dressing up. I love seeing other people’s costumes, particularly when they get creative and have something unique and clever to show the world. Kind of like this guy.

But it seems that lately my favorite holiday has been turned into an amalgam of racist, sexist, and all-around bigoted costume choices. From black face (often including things like domestic violence, i.e. Ray Rice and murder victims, i.e. Trayvon Martin) to caricaturized costumes of Native Americans, Mexicans, and more . . . . it’s disgusting.

You know what else is disgusting? Making a joke out of people living in poverty. But, of course it’s Halloween, so there’s always bound to be some douchebag who not only doesn’t think anything is wrong with it but also scoffs at “oversensitive liberals” who call out their offensive bullshit.

A dear friend of mine, Stephanie, was scrolling through her Facebook feed when she came across the picture below. The woman on the right is a friend of her friend and the sign she is holding reads, “”HELP M3 I’M POOR.” Stephanie was quickly unfriended for speaking up . . . . and honestly, good riddance. But people need to know that this is not okay.


Steph wrote the perfect comment, so instead of continuing with my own rant, here’s hers:

Hey there random Facebook friend… just want to make sure I’m not jumping to any conclusions, but is that girl in the picture with you dressed for Halloween as a homeless person? If so, that’s pretty freaking offensive, and it takes a hell-of-a-lot of privilege to think that dressing as a (apparently stupid, judging by the sign) homeless person is a good idea.

So what kind of people end up homeless?

“Families experiencing homelessness are similar to other, housed families living in poverty. In fact, many poor families – homeless or not – share similar characteristics: they are usually headed by a single woman with limited education, are usually young, and have high rates of domestic violence and mental illness.

Some families living in poverty, however, fall into homelessness, usually due to some unforeseen financial challenge, such as a death in the family, a lost job, or an unexpected bill, creating a situation where the family cannot maintain housing.”

What about those heroes who put their lives on the line for our country and come back ravaged and broken to a system that doesn’t give them the support to heal from the mental and physical wounds that they received while defending your picture-friend’s right to be an ignorant twat?

“According to data collected during the 2014 Point-in-Time Count, 49,933 veterans experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2014.”

What about those in our country who are suffering from severe mental illness, through no fault of their own?

“Approximately 26 percent of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46 percent live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.”

We are all only a few poorly-timed circumstances away from ending up homeless and on the streets.  Stigma and mockery like that shown by your picture-buddy (i.e. – homeless people are dirty and stupid) are HUGE barriers to people seeking the help they need to pull themselves out of an already fucked up situation. It’s nothing to laugh at. It’s nothing to mock. It is something to be shamed by and something that could potentially affect someone you love, someone in your family, you, or (heaven forbid) your offensive friend from that picture.

Listen, I’m not trying to attack you.  I’m hoping that you were an innocent bystander to this girl’s poor costume choice. I know this was not you that was dressed this way, and that it was probably not meant to be offensive, but it is every decent human being’s responsibility to take a stand and let people know that things like this are NOT OKAY.  I encourage you, and anyone else who knows that girl, to speak up and let her know how terribly offensive her costume was.

To read some more statistics on homelessness, check out the following links (where the quotes came from):

End Homelessness – Families

End Homelessness – Veterans

NAMI Fact Sheet


Getting involved with One Step Away

This afternoon I attended an editorial meeting for One Step Away, Philadelphia’s first street newspaper. I met and spoke with the editor, the Resources for Human Development employees who work on the paper, and the writers for One Step Away. I listened to the passion in the room as ideas were discussed. It was a “guided chaos”, Kevin, the editor of OSA, called it. And it was. And it was inspiring to watch.

Before the meeting began, I was able to speak to some of the writers, men and women who live or have lived in Philadelphia shelters. I spent a nice portion of that time talking with a man who is collaborating on a comic strip/book about addiction in all its nitty-gritty glory. His artistry and vision were incredible.

I stayed quiet during the meeting because one, I wanted to just get an idea for what the process for OSA is all about, and two, because it was a bit difficult to get a word in with all of the strong voices in the room! Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted to. It was their words, their stories, their opinions, their passion. They were being heard, and it was obvious how important that was.

After the meeting, Kessel (who attended with me) and I spoke with the editor about how we can get involved. At the very least we can provide copy editing support. There are also some writing opportunities for stories that have not already been picked up. There’s a woman with a wonderful success story that should be told. I will have the pleasure of interviewing her and sharing her journey with OSA.

I am truly grateful to become a part of this amazing project. I am looking forward to working with the writers, meeting some wonderful new people, and doing at least a small part to help make a positive change in the world around me.

One Step Away: Helping to end homelessness in Philadelphia

I walk through Center City Philadelphia several times a day. I ride at least 8 trains or buses every day. I also see more homeless people than I can possibly count. I’m asked for change as I walk out of the El station. I see people with signs outside of the many stores down Market Street. I see people sleeping on grates and the train station stairways. I’ve been seeing all of this for 16 years. I’ve not become immune to it.

It’s an awkward dilemma that I find myself in on a daily basis. I certainly don’t prescribe to the notion that everyone on the streets is a drug addict who just needs to get clean. I also don’t discount that there are those who do fit that description. I remember the woman I used to see every day before and after school. Every day she would ask me for money for food. Every day I would offer her what I had left over from my lunch, usually cans of soda and unopened Tasty Kakes or crackers. Every day she would rudely decline. I also remember those who I’ve handed sandwiches and coffee to when I’ve walked out of Wawa’s and 7-11’s. I remember their gratitude. My liberal bleeding heart is often contending with a city girl’s cynicism. And sometimes it damn near breaks me.

Do I want to help everyone that I see? Of course, I do. But I don’t always know if what I’m doing is going to help or hurt someone, and when you pass a dozen people with signs and change cups every day, how do you decide who to help?

A few months ago, as I was getting off the bus, I heard a man yelling on the corner, “One Step Away, help homeless women and children! One Step Away, $1.00 to help homeless women and children!” I had never heard of this before, so I stood by the nearest building to smoke a cigarette and I looked up “One Step Away” on my phone. It was what I had thought it was: a newspaper to help the people without jobs or homes in Philadelphia. I had seen something similar the last time I was in New York, but I thought there was something special about the Philadelphia paper.

There are 26 similar papers across the United States. What makes One Step Away different?  Almost all of the content is written by people who reside in Philadelphia shelters. I bought the paper that day, and every day that I have seen it sold since. It is extremely enlightening to read stories from that perspective. And it’s given me quite a bit to think about. There have been occasions in my life where I had to “crash” at someone’s place because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was lucky to have those people in my life. What if they weren’t there? What would have happened to me? Those people were my “one step away”.

I applaud the men, women, and children who put this paper together and sell it on the street. They are working hard to help themselves and have in the process helped me. They’ve inspired me to get involved. I’ve emailed the editor of the paper and offered my time in any way that it could be used. I am looking forward to helping make a change . . . to, in some small way, helping my fellow human beings . . . to making a positive difference in the world around me . . . and to growing as person while I do it.