Everyone has bad days, but for someone who lives on the street, these bad days can come more often. A homeless person might have all of their belongings stolen from them, get soaked by rain with no place to keep their things, or have other unfortunate circumstances happen that turn an already bad day into a terrible one. To make matters worse, many people we encounter don’t seem to realize that a homeless person is just another human being and not some sort of “monster”. This sounds silly and unneeded to say, but we feel it is worth mentioning our observation.
When we meet someone (who is not homeless) and they seem to be going through a hard time, we think about how we can be helpful and kind to them. But when you are homeless and everyone around you seems oblivious to your plight, it breaks your heart over and over again. It is simply a downward spiralling breaking of your heart that never stops. We wrote this blogpost in an attempt to show you what it feels like when you don’t matter in our society. The content of this blogpost is based on the experiences of a few homeless people in Paarl, South Africa.
You Feel Hopeless and Like Giving Up
When you are homeless, it can feel as though your life is completely over. You know that there’s no way out of this situation, no chance you’re ever getting your old life back, and no path to a better future. You probably don’t even have the energy to try to improve your situation any more. You’ve tried to get a job, you’ve tried to get help, and you’ve tried to get your life going again, but nothing seems to work. If you live on the street, you can’t even get out of “bed” in the morning – unless you have a really good day. You have to find a place to pitch a tent or to throw a cardboard box on the ground to sleep on, and make sure no one steals it. You might have to go to a public bathroom, or use a business’ tap while no one is looking, just to wash your face. You might have to walk a long distance to find a free (or at least: affordable) meal, and you might have to walk even further to find someplace warm to sleep at the end of the day.
You Feel Ugly and Worthless
When you are homeless, some people around you often assume you are a drug addict or mentally ill. You’ve tried to explain to people that you just do not have a home and that’s why you look the way you do, but they don’t want to hear anything you have to say. They want you to go away and never cause them any trouble. You’ve tried to get a job and find a place to live, but no one wants to hire you and no one will rent even a small space to someone like you. And if someone is willing to rent a space to you, it is many times too expensive. The only clothes you have left are the ones that are in really bad shape and are covered in stains and holes. You have to wash your clothes somewhere in public where there is water, like a river or fountain. You try to keep your head down and look as unnoticeable as possible when you’re there. Many times the police or neighbourhood watch would come, confiscate your belongings and chase you away. You just want to get your clothes clean and then get back to your shelter as soon as possible.
People Don’t Care About Your Problems
When you are homeless, you’ve come to the realization that no one cares about you, or so it seems. You’ve tried to explain to people what happened and how you ended up in this position, but no one is willing to listen or believe you. You’ve tried to get help, but you end up being turned away or given a form to fill-out that no one ever follows up on. You’ve tried to find someone who will care about you, but you’ve come up empty every single time. People treat you like a criminal or a nuisance. They assume you’re someone dangerous and that you don’t deserve anything better in life. You’ve tried to talk to people, but they don’t want to hear what you have to say. “They just want you to shut up and go away.” People assume you are someone who is just trying to get money from them, so they don’t want to give you spare change. They assume you are someone who is just using them for a place to stay, so they don’t want you around. They assume you are someone who is just trying to take advantage of the system, so they don’t want to hear what you have to say.
Your basic needs are constantly going unmet
When you are homeless, your basic needs are constantly going unmet. You’ve tried to get a job, but no one will hire you. You’ve tried to get help, but no one will listen to you. You’ve tried to find a place to stay, but no one will rent to you. You’ve tried to find food, but no one will feed you. You’ve tried to find warmth, but no one will let you in their home. You’ve tried to find safety, but no one will protect you. You’ve tried to get people to understand your situation, but no one will listen to you. You’ve tried to find someone who cares about you, but no one will help you.
These are all basic needs. Basic needs! Basic needs! You have to read this three times.
This article has attempted to explore what it feels like if you are homeless.
If you are currently homeless or know someone who is, please reach out for help. There are people who want to help you and are waiting for you to ask. There are shelters and organisations like us (MCM) that want to make sure you have a place to stay and food to eat. There are people who want to make sure you have a job and a way for you to get to it. There are people who want to make sure you have a warm place to sleep and clean clothes to wear. You matter and you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.
If you are not homeless, do you not want to be the “people” we refer to in the previous paragraph?
And if you wondered how the people look like that we wrote about, here are some pictures of them: