Homelessness is a concern in almost every place you go around the world, but we often don't think much about it unless it touches our lives in a personal way. Unfortunately, as human beings, we often come up with overly-simplistic reasons why people live on the streets or in homeless shelters, and this perception often limits our abilities to have real compassion for others. Some reasons can include loss of employment, a traumatic event such as a natural disaster that damages or destroys a family's home and substance abuse, and the list goes on and on.
But, the facts on homelessness are stark, something I want to discuss as it applies to the United States where I live.
So first of all, number one:
Now, I understand that people may feel uncomfortable in helping the homeless, but there are a number of things that people can do to alleviate the pain and suffering of those who are in desperate need of help.
- In just the United States alone, over half a million people are homeless, with about a third of those being children.
- Number two, about one if five people suffer from a mental health issue.
- Number three, about half of women who are homeless have been the victims of domestic abuse.
- And number four, around a quarter of the homeless are employed, but, unfortunately, the cost of living for many people is just beyond their means and current income.
For me, I just assume that people need help, and I give it to them. I try not to assume that a person's plight has been self-inflicted every time. One time, my wife and I were about to enter a restaurant when a homeless man approached us for money. Trying to set aside any prejudice or preconceived feeling about his intentions, my wife simply invited him to join us for dinner. As it turned out, it was a nice evening. The man shared with us his hopes and dreams, and when our meal was over, we expressed well wishes to him and went home, not really knowing if he had a home to return to as well.
To conclude, my intention in telling this story isn't to show how great we were for helping the man. Far from it. So many other people serve humbly and anonymously in far greater ways that we do, and I realize that there have been times that I haven't been compassionate as I could have been. Rather, I just want to say that people like you and me can make a small difference in the small acts of generosity we do each day that can make a difference.