When you see a homeless person, what do you do?
Avoid eye contact? Walk a little faster and hope they don’t talk to you? Maybe you even want to help, but you just don’t know how to start a conversation. Well, it’s a fact – homelessness exists. Yes, even in the Capital Region and it is time for all of us to talk about it.
Last year, on one day, there were 1,417 people experiencing homelessness in the Capital Region. 274 were children. This is unacceptable and I know you agree, but what can you do? Well, you already are doing something by learning about homelessness in the Capital Region. Being informed and informing others is a great first step towards understanding, but, perhaps the most important thing you can do right now is reevaluate your own perceptions about homelessness.
Remember that someone experiencing homelessness did not choose to be homeless – no one is proud of losing their housing and depending on others to meet basic needs. A homeless person is a person; a human being that deserves recognition, compassion, and, yes, respect. They are not and should not be defined by the crisis they are experiencing. Remember, the experience of homelessness is often terrifying, exhausting, and dehumanizing – people experiencing homelessness are more susceptible to hate crime, violence, theft, and assault. Homelessness is a dangerous condition, but that does not mean that the person is dangerous.
Show compassion not because you pity them, but because they deserve the dignity of being recognized as a person. A homeless person has passions, a favorite sports team, favorite foods, and other interests – just like you. So, the best thing you can do is start recognizing the commonalities instead of the differences – that’s how you start a conversation.