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Academic English

“Homelessness – Script”

Listening Exercise

Listen to the recording on homelessness and read along with the conversation. Review the key vocabulary and the sample sentences.

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:

  • 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.

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.

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 as 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.

Vocabulary and Sample Sentences

  • perception (noun): the way you think about or understand someone or something 
    – We need to change people’s perceptions of the homeless to build better understanding.
  • traumatic (adjective): causing someone to become emotionally upset, angry, or hurt 
    – For many youth, living homeless on the streets can be a very traumatic experience.
  • stark (adjective): a very plain, unpleasant, or difficult to accept 
    – Many homeless face the stark reality of living without food and shelter for long periods of time.
  • domestic (adjective): related to a person’s home or family 
    – Steve wasn’t happy at all with his domestic life, so he left home to live on his own.
  • alleviate (verb): reduce the pain or discomfort of something 
    – What can citizens do to alleviate hunger and poverty?
  • desperate (adjective): very sad or upset and having little hope 
    – The holidays are very desperate times for many homeless because they sometimes have no family around to visit.
  • plight (noun): a very bad or difficult situation 
    – The city needs to do more to address the plight of the homeless in our community.
  • prejudice (noun): an unfair feeling of dislike for a person or group because of race, religion, or sexual identity 
    – Some people experience prejudice because of the color of their skin.
  • preconceived (adjective): having an opinion or idea that you form beforehand 
    – It is unfortunate that so many people hold a number of preconceived ideas that are just not true about the homeless.
  • intention (noun): plan or goal 
    – What is the city’s intention on building a new homeless shelter in the downtown area? Many citizens want to understand the plans better.
  • anonymously (adverb): something done by someone who is not named or identified 
    – Our family would like to give some food and clothing anonymously.
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