December 19, 2013

People do not choose to be homeless, poor

LETTER

The media remind us daily about how prevalent homelessness and poverty is in America.

We often hear the myth that people choose to be homeless and/or live in poverty. In the eight years I’ve worked in social services, I never met a person who said their goal in life was to be homeless or live in poverty.

I believe individuals who find themselves in this situation have faced hardships along the way, such as lost employment and mortgage foreclosure. Some may have developed mental or physical disabilities, or experienced the death of family member. During these major life crises, they reach and surpass the limits of their resources, which comprise their lifeline to regaining stability in their lives.

Humanity has been replaced with stigma toward this group of people. They are judged based on their outward appearance, lack of privileges or services being rendered.

We need to create an awareness among people that being homeless or living in poverty for any of period of time has a lifelong impact on our families, elderly and communities.

My experience with working with this population is that they are resilient.

We should hold off on passing judgment and take the time to learn who they are as a person first. Then we need to try to understand the barriers that keep them from getting out of adverse living conditions.

Being in the helping profession, I will continue to advocate for policy change to improve the well-being for the people who endure chronic hardships. I encourage people to advocate to our state government to change policies that have a negative impact on our community.

Collectively, our calls to impose change will be heard.

Trixie Porter Winslow
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