I used to wonder how people became homeless.
This probably started because there was a lady in Charlotte who used to wander the streets in a bright orange jumpsuit collecting aluminum cans. It was my Mom who pointed her out to my brother and I one day when we were out running errands near the old Coliseum in town. My Mom told us that she went to high school with that woman dressed in the unusual orange suit.
My Mom said that one day that the lady just cracked, which seemed to suggest that she had some sort of mysterious mental breakdown and that was why she did nothing more than randomly pick up trash on city streets. I think there was a different perception of homelessness back then and maybe it was true that this woman was not homeless at all. Maybe she was just unusual. But then when I got to college in the nineties, I could not help but notice the many men who hung around Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, which was the main street that ran by our college campus. These men often drank bottles of beer in brown bags or disguised in McDonald’s cups, sometimes while sitting at the bus stop, or on the street corner, and they almost always asked for money to supply themselves with these beverages. You could count on someone, i.e., a drunk homeless person, asking you for money when you went to Hillsborough Street for lunch in the middle of your day of classes. The inference was that we were wealthy college kids and this was why we should hand over our lunch money. I asked myself again and again then thought, why were these people in this situation? What had they done to bring such a predicament about in their lives? Like the woman in the orange jumpsuit in Charlotte, there was a mystery surrounding these people begging for money. Had we as a society put them there for a certain reason?
But times have changed. There is a different perception about homelessness now. Most people know it can happen to anyone, for any reason. In a certain way, it has become cool to help homeless people. Which is not to say that they always get the help they need.
Recently, for a long time in my neighborhood there was a man who took up residence on the corner of two busy streets here in Charlotte, Sharon Amity and Randolph Road, and he had a shopping cart full of his many belongings and he would sit under a tarp when it rained and word had it that he even had a pet bunny somewhere buried in that grocery cart. I watched quietly as people on neighborhood social network Nextdoor talked about this young man. He was a hot topic. Some were annoyed by his presence, calling him a “blight” to our nice and friendly neighborhood. Others were scared of him because it was claimed that sometimes he would get angry and bang on passing car windows. Some people did not like the rough language he used on signs he started to display from his perch on the corner—signs that were often in protest of how he had been mistreated by a local restaurant or store or even the police. In the end, he must have gotten some help because he is no longer out there and has not been for some time. The chatter about him waned online as well.
I think that a lot of people who are homeless these days get the help they need from various social service organizations in our city. But until the problem is solved and there is no more homelessness, until there are concrete solutions for anyone who winds up in such a situation, people will still suffer. Now, you might say to yourself, there will always be suffering and nothing we can do will stop it. But I ask why. Why does anyone at all have to go without a roof over their head for even one night? There simply should be solutions in place to help people in this situation.
The cure for homelessness is offering a home, in whatever way possible. This is what we need to do, for anyone at all, no questions asked. It is simply the humane thing to do. I hope that you will join me in believing this too.
Story Request — Your Encounter With Someone Facing Homelessness
@Harry — thank you for this piece. Really appreciate your snapshots of actual people that you encounter and observed.
Great article Harry; Well written....✌🏼❤️