Talking about my job helping people experiencing ‘homelessness’ prompts many responses.
I am often asked, "So what happened to these people before they ended up homeless?" “Are they drug addicts? " "Don't they have family who could take them in?" I understand that we want to find some failure or fault in their personalities to justify the fact that they ruined their lives.
Certainly, family breakdown, domestic violence, addictions, poor physical and mental health, are all factors that can contribute to this desperate situation. These kinds of events can throw a life off track and be contributing factors to homelessness, but they do not justify it.
And there’s the rub. The root cause of homelessness is society’s misplaced acceptance that it is destined to happen and can’t be prevented.
This is an acceptance of the idea that people who fail, who can’t ‘make it’ in life, deserve to become homeless. Beyond the obvious feelings of shame (for the people who experience homelessness) that come with this thinking, there are other perverse effects. Thinking this way means that we fail to see the essential causes of homelessness: the choices of our society and our political leaders. Real estate speculation, insufficient social welfare in the face of the exorbitant cost of rent, the over-crowding of psychiatric hospitals, etc., are intimately connected to causing homelessness and maintaining it.
In other words, the existence of rough sleeping is rather the result of budget priorities and a culture of profit. “Street nurses” work against the grain of this nasty paradigm and believe that homelessness can be eradicated. We contribute to this by trying to ensure respect for the fundamental rights of people who are socially and otherwise excluded and by campaigning at local, national and global levels.
The social perversion that is homelessness can be ended and prevented.
- Fiona, Housing facilitator
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