Monday, December 22, 2014

A Unique Story That Teaches Us How We Should Treat People Experiencing Homelessness

Check out this somewhat unique story from the UK about a student, who used her common sense, not only in the way she treated a guy who helped her, but also to arrive at what would be of most help to him:

Homeless Man Offers Student All His Money To Get Her A Taxi. Now She's Thanking Him In A Big Way -

Why do I say this story is somewhat unique? I am always on the lookout for uplifting stories about people helping people experiencing homelessness. There are, in fact, many wonderful people out there who want to help. There are, however, often two fundamental challenges that such stories suffer from. First, they treat the person who is experiencing homelessness as one who lacks agency. Second, the help offered does not help the person end his or her homelessness. This should not be surprising, as some people, ample evidence not withstanding, cling to a belief that the "homeless" have something so inherently wrong with them, they need to be "fixed", before they can move back into a permanent home.

In this story, person A has a problem, and person B helps her. Contrary to the often repeated narrative, it is the person experiencing homelessness, who helps the person who is not, and not vice versa. Not only does this man have agency, he sacrifices much more than the typical well-meaning do-gooder, as he gives her all the money he has. We are further told later in the story, that he helps people all the time. Now, Person A, whose problem was solved, decides to return the favor. So, how does this student decide she should help a man experiencing homelessness? Without spending years studying the issue, she arrives at the same conclusion sociologists have arrived at time after time. What does this "homeless" man need? A home! We can reasonably conclude that he has some more challenges in his life, that he probably needs help with; don't all of us? However, getting him into a home - Housing First - will help, not hinder addressing whatever those challenges might be, in addition to ending his homelessness.

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