Essay About Homelessness
Around the world, homelessness has always been an issue. It gets brought to our attention through news outlets and even through the area we live in. In Hobos, Hustlers, and Backsliders: Homelessness in San Francisco, the author, Teresa Gowan, makes agreeable key points. Gowan addresses the real issue of homelessness; what we don’t understand about it, how difficult it is, and the judgement homeless people receive.
Whether an individual lives in San Francisco, where Gowans’s essay is placed, or on the other side of the world, homelessness is still a serious issue regardless of where one lives. Homeless men, women, and children are often all around us. Gowan states, “But everywhere else homeless people slept on the sidewalk, in alleys, doorways, cars, parks, beside and underneath freeways, on patches of waste ground, or in one of the city’s rare abandoned buildings. Some put up tents on sidewalks, mans’ earned around sleeping bags and cardboard, others crashed out on the ground, their clothes their only protection” (68). Homeless men and women, when left with few options, will use what they can which is why many of them are on the streets. This is very much true considering most of them don’t have much of a choice but to make use of what is around them. Q13 Fox News talked with Melissa Stevens who is a homeless resident in Olympia Washington. She told reporters, “… she’d rather be at the sanctioned encampment off Franklin Street than at a shelter. ‘Most all the time the shelters are always full; always full and don’t have room,’ said Stevens” (Q13 Fox). In Olympia, I often see tents near and under bridges, occasionally in the wooded area by the freeway, and behind certain fast-food restaurants. As Stevens said, she chooses to live at the sanctioned encampment instead of other places similar to the shelter. It is not specifically because she wants to, it is just the best option she has and as she stated, the shelter is usually full.
With the large number of homeless people around the world, we commonly think we know what they go through. A lot of the time what we see is only half of what the homeless people experience; the half we usually don’t see is not any better. Gowan quotes Mikey, who was a homeless white man with mental health problems, “‘I used to be a lot of a nicer person. But you learn you can’t trust anyone in this place. Not in the shelter, not here. There’s too many people looking to rip you off. Mean, cheating, low-down kinds of people… It’s just a fact: this neighborhood is not safe, and I keep my head down, and keep my own company, and that is how I stay alive’” (66). I agree with this statement that was made by the homeless man; that helped further support Gowan’s statement on how difficult life is for the homeless. Being homeless is already a difficult task on its own, but further having to feel unsafe and live in more fear because of the other individuals around continues to add to the difficulties. Living in Olympia Washington I commonly see many homeless people, mostly in downtown or occasionally near fast-food businesses. At night, I see many of them walking around. Some of them would be in a small group of about three huddled together for warmth, while others would walk alone with a dirty, torn-up blanket and ragged clothes. Most of them having only a tent as shelter or little to nothing at all. I once saw an older man get pushed around and beat up for a bag of food. He seemed like he was around his late 40’s, while his attackers were other homeless men around their 30’s. Simply seeing and knowing those things alone occur already showed me how difficult it must be. Words could not explain the sorrow I felt as I drove past.
Many of us are quick to criticize when we see a homeless person because they appear different from us. What we don’t realize is how much they have to go through along with being homeless; no matter the situation, they are still human. Gowan quotes Ray, who has been [at the time] living on the streets for more than a year, “‘Like with the shelter… You stand in line forever, and when you do get in, those people do not treat you with respect.
There are things we see and think we understand about the homeless however that is not always the case. Teresa Gowan shows us that there should be a deeper understanding of homelessness and the people affected by it that we don’t always understand or see. In my own life, I didn’t understand much about the homeless population aside from the fact that they had no home to live in. I realized it is much more than not having a home. It’s also the struggle of having to seek shelter, the issue of other individuals making them feel even more unsafe, and the constant judgment they receive.