Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent

P.O. Box 366, Lightfoot, VA 23090
Office: 757-561-3255
"Assisting people in re-gaining hope and a better way of life."

Monday, March 31, 2003

What Does A Homeless Person Look Like?

Many of us, when we hear the term 'Homeless' get an image in our mind: a drunk walking around in dirty clothes, dirty stringy hair, reeking of body odor or the smell of alcohol, searching through dumpsters for food, begging for money, carrying around a cardboard box or pushing a grocery cart or even just lying in a gutter or street passed out and never work. Sound familiar? Is this what you pictured? Yes, sometimes there are a FEW like this in cities across the nation. But, this is not the whole reality. The majority of them dress like you and me, go to libraries to read or use the computers (check out www.thehomelessguy.net if you don't believe me), search out odd-jobs to earn some money or even have full-time jobs, have college degrees, manners better than some of us, transportation, all their teeth, dreams/hopes/goals, and never touch alcohol. What is it they don't have? A house or place to live that is adequate and their own (even if it is renting, it is still theirs temporarily.)

Someone who lives on the street, or in an abandoned building, or in any place not meant for human habitation or someone who has no regular place to live is often called homeless. In the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, the federal government defines as “homeless” someone who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence or an individual whose primary residence is one of the following: a temporary place for people about to be institutionalized; any place not meant for regular sleeping accommodation by humans; or a supervised temporary shelter. This definition of homeless also extends to those people who are at serious risk of losing their housing because they are being evicted from a private housing unit or because they are being discharged from institutions and have nowhere else to go. People who are doubled up with relatives or friends are also homeless.

Most of us think people are homeless because they are drunks or drug addicts. These are known as secondary causes. The main reason a person usually ends up homeless is because a lack of affordable housing, low pay wages or lack of education/skill trade. Some people do turn to alcohol or drugs out of desperation after the effect of the systemic causes. Then you also have the 'working poor'. These are people that are a paycheck away from being homeless. And guess what?! You don't actually have to be 'poor' to be considered a part of the 'working poor'! People who go out and build or buy large houses who have mortgages almost beyond their means and it takes both spouses to work to make their payments and have to cut back in other areas, that if one person or even both lost their job or had a pay-cut or even have to go week to week on a paycheck with no savings: you are at risk of being homeless. There are several definitions to homeless, several examples of being homeless, but very few solutions. Again, homelessness does not discriminate against the rich or the poor...so why do we discriminate against those who are homeless? Actually very few people who are known or termed as 'homeless' truly are on the streets.

For example, we know people on our street are concerned I will start bringing homeless people into our area at our house. I know they have concerns about the family that has temporarily been staying with us. But, did you know that the Mother has 2 college degrees, works in a hospital, makes $10.00 an hour? Did you know they have a vehicle? Did you know they have helped my husband out when he needed extra man power at his job (people who are wanting to go into contracting have to start and learn somewhere) and when they aren't helping him, they are helping me with work around the house and yard, that due to limited time, strength or even my health issues (yes, bet many of you didn't know I had them that at times weakens me or tires me out) I sometimes can't get to? Did you know that their Father died unexpectedly and they basically lost everything due to issues with Probate that started their plight? And did you know, they have gone to several agencies for help but because of her high pay wage and lack of credit could receive help? Did you know that I am not the only one who has people who are homeless or live in shelters working for us in our neighborhood? I bet you didn't. And there have been times I have had my concerns about the people you have hired to do work in our neighborhood. But, I would prefer for you who have concerns come to us in the future and not our Landlords. We are approachable and willing to listen to your concerns and help alleviate them.

BY THE WAY, THE MOST COMMON PROFESSION OF PEOPLE WHO ARE CONSIDERED HOMELESS OR END UP HOMELESS IS CONTRACTORS! Contractors here are not paid for their worth and the skills they use to build our neighborhoods and business areas. That is sad. But even worse, people here aren't paid their worth in all work fields. Just for the betterment of all people in Williamsburg, we need better pay, more affordable housing and more compassion for one-another. Why can't we work together for everyone?


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