... when you're constantly on the move, few things remain unchanged.

h is for homelessness

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

People walking by homless man, sitting on street, (B&W) : Stock Photo

Not a nice topic today but one that I feel needs to be addressed because of the impact it had on me when I first arrived in America.  I honestly never thought a capitalistic country with so many 'golden street' cliches would have this problem. To say homelessness doesn't exist in Australia is silly but I never saw so many homeless people until I moved here.  Probably because Australian police tend to move homeless people out of public areas so you don't really see them just hanging out or begging.  Of course everyone knows where they live on the outskirts of the city, but these 'dangerous' places are avoided so to encounter a homeless person (in Brisbane anyway) is quite rare.

When I moved to Atlanta, I saw homeless people e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e and because of my ignorance I found it shocking and scary.  After the initial shock of seeing human beings begging or laying under bridges, on park benches, in semi-sheltered doorways and driveways around the city: a huge sadness engulfed me at the apathy of the rest of the citizens who just walked / drove by, carrying on with their business, not even a glance to spare at the desperate people without a home.

Every time Will and I would leave the city to visit his grandparents, we would drive by a homeless community that lived under a bridge and my chest would seize at the sight of them.  I swore that I would never become a heartless citizen that drove by and paid them no notice.  I wanted to stop, feed them, clothe them and give them blankets or shoes.  I cried for these people, who in my mind, all just needed help getting back on their feet.  I couldn't believe what Will told me about every shelter in max capacity and no more money to spare.  It seemed 'Gotham City' really existed and I felt so stupid at my own naivety about the world.

Since then this spoiled, naive girl has seen and learnt a lot about America and the world.  I've learnt that not everybody wants to be helped.  I've learnt that being homeless in a first world country is still vastly better than being homeless in a third.  I've learnt that no government system works or ever will while people go hungry.  Most importantly I've learnt that I can't fix the world entirely but that I should never stop trying to.

11 comments

  1. I like your statement that not everyone wants help. But I'd change your statement about no government system works to no government system works perfectly like it says it will. Interesting post. If you have time, and want to, you can check out my H post.

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    1. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment :) I'm heading over to yours now :)

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  2. I remember a guy called Ziggy who lived on the High Street in Toowong in Brisbane. He was perfectly happy and resisted energetically any and all efforts to rehouse him. He said he had everything he needed. The local businesses kept an eye on him and allowed to use their facilities if he wanted to. People saw him there everyday and many would greet him and ask how he was. He sometimes responded but usually just nodded an acknowledgement. He didn't beg. When he disappeared for a while, the community was most concerned. Nobody knew where he went but he came back eventually.

    This was another thought provoking post. Thank you.

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    1. That is sweet Mrs G, thanks for sharing :) I understand why people are afraid of the homeless - since I used to be as well but to assume they're all druggo's or unstable is so wrong. Being cautious of any stranger is justified but I often find that just sharing food with them goes a long way.

      or even a smile...

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  3. This is something I haven't encountered much of... When i worked in Flinders st Melbourne there was an old homeless man that was well known, even made the news when he died. Rumour was that he was actually quite wealthy and his children had tried to house him but he was happy where he was, on the steps of the Young and Jacksons hotel. I would probably walk past and try and ignore most to. I would probably cry for them too and likely volunteer at some of the services that can help. Here's hoping a government system that works happens in our lifetime. Reflex Reactions

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    1. Thanks for sharing Ida, these days it seems to be becoming a trend to give up possessions and opt for a community lifestyle free of materialism (very New Age). In Siberia a community over 200K strong has formed that have done so and I am always fascinated by this.
      I'm sure that if I was left without a home I would try and make my way to one of those instead of living in a westernized city where people walk past me and ignore me. I don't understand people who are happy to stay that way - but each to their own I guess!

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    2. PS: you're lucky you haven't encountered much of this. It's very demoralizing and depressing!

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  4. A friend of mine lived in a city - when we visit there are always people asking for money and you would guess by how they present themselves that they were homeless - my friend once told me, as I was going to give a guy some money, not to... she said that he's actually a millionaire... When we visit the city here, there are always those less fortunate out on the street. One time when my son was in the hospital (when I use to smoke) I stepped out and someone came right up to me and asked for a cig. I gave him the rest of the pack and my lighter. I often wonder what circumstances led them to live on the streets, if it was a choice or circumstantial. Either way, I always consider if I was living on the streets and had to have the strength to ask someone for something... it's just so sad to me and it only adds to my anger and frustration at our Government.

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    1. My thoughts exactly! A few friends in Atlanta used to say never to give anything to the homeless because it just 'enables' their lifestyle - that if they don't get anything, they'll be more likely to do something to change their circumstance. But I just don't believe in judging like that. Who knows where they come from and what their story is? If someone (no matter whether they're homeless or not) asks me for something that I can freely give: I WILL. It's not a question of whether they deserve it or not. I believe in giving indiscriminately!

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  5. Hi Lena - being homeless is so frightening for some people, then as you mention homeless is a way of life .. our (their) brains need to adjust when in this situation .. and be prepared and ready to move back into society -

    We have a lot of homeless here .. and some have gone down from good lives, then have rescued themselves back ..

    I personally would not like to be in that situation .. good to highlight homelessness though - Hilary

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    1. Thank you Hilary. Your comment is very sobering. I appreciate your time and input :)

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Sharing my stories of migrating from Australia to the US | travel adventures | married life | furry kids | new experiences | lessons | and loving life despite always missing home. xo.

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