Normally, I’ll try to share resources from others, but I wanted to share a story that helped me understand my bias toward homeless or unhoused folks.
I don’t remember the context, but back in graduate school, the topic of homelessness came up in one of my creative writing courses. Someone–I truly don’t remember if it was me or someone else–said they didn’t mind giving money to a panhandler if they knew the person wasn’t going to use it for drugs or alcohol. This was always the perspective I took as well, as it was the only perspective I’d heard from my family and in the media.
A classmate said, “Why does it matter how they use it? As long as it gives them comfort.”
This blew my mind in the way education should. It never occurred to me how hard it must be to panhandle. Between the possible desperation, starvation, and social shame, it takes a lot for a person to be willing to stand in the elements and ask others for money. The only other people I know who do this are politicians. Beyond that, it never occurred to my early 20-something brain that panhandlers and or unhoused people need comfort. This is how much I’d been taught to dehumanize them. I’m grateful for having my opinion changed.
I mention this because of the Winter Solstice Drive. Hawthorn Hill helps people make the transition from being unhoused to a shelter to job and home. I’m privileged to have never lived in that situation, and I cannot imagine the social shame, frustration, and hardships. But I’m centering myself here. It’s time to shift the focus to those who suffer. Please put this on your calendars, and help those in need!