Re-humanizing the homeless

How about something a little thought-provoking on a Thursday morning? We saw this video on Osocio.org and just had to share our thoughts.

Are the homeless really treated like animals? The answer to that question certainly depends on whom you ask, and according to some recent studies on how the homeless are treated in different cities, the answer will also depend on where you live. Regardless of your beliefs on the subject, we feel the video does raise the issue that many homeless men, women and even children feel dehumanized.

You can easily imagine the dehumanizing effects of living on the streets or in the woods: missing regular showers, lacking toiletries and clean clothes, being ignored (or worse, publicly scrutinized), and lacking a stable home and possessions. At the Coalition, we are able to combat these effects by providing for basic needs (like shelter, meals, shower and laundry facilities). As their fundamental needs are met, our clients can focus on permanently returning to self-sufficiency. To assist them in their journey, we offer job training, educational opportunities, life skills training (like budgeting and savings), and mental health counseling to clients in our case-managed programs.

We often say that homelessness is not what you’d expect, and after looking at the faces of clients at the Coalition, you will realize that each image breaks the common stereotypes against the homeless. The issue remains, however, that many people are uncomfortable around the homeless and aren’t sure how to interact with them.

Dozens of sites offer advice on how to treat the homeless with dignity in your day-to-day interactions. For example, everymondaymatters.com lists suggestions such as:

• Don’t judge people based on their outward appearances or life circumstances.
Better understand who the homeless are by talking to them on the street or by volunteering to serve food at a mission, shelter, or soup kitchen. You’ll be surprised by what you learn.
Look a homeless person in the eye, show consideration, be polite, and smile. Simply say “hello”…They are human, just like you.
Instead of money, offer bottled water, ready-to-eat food, or toiletries.

We appreciated those offerings, but feel there is so much more to be done. What other tidbits can you offer our readership? How can you help re-humanize the homeless in the eyes of your community?

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