What is homelessness?In recognition of Homelessness Awareness Month, Douglas County high school students were invited to submit essays answering the question, “How would you describe homelessness?”
In recognition of Homelessness Awareness Month, Douglas County high school students were invited to submit essays answering the question, “How would you describe homelessness?”
The contest was sponsored by the Community Impact Coalition, Douglas County Homeless to Housed and an anonymous prize donor.
Randee O’Brien, a senior at Jefferson High School (JHS) in Alexandria, was the first place winner. Her essay is printed below. The other winners were Angela Breitenfeld, second place, and Maria Schmidt, third place. They are also seniors at JHS.
What is homelessness?
By Randee O’Brien
Homelessness is the state of not having a dependable dwelling to reside in. It is the state of not knowing what it feels like to go home and relax.
It is also the state of not having a sense of security; each night someone who is homeless may sleep in a different bed.
There are many possible reasons as to why a person may be homeless. Some simply cannot afford housing, others could have been burdened with heavy medical bills, some could have faced foreclosure, and others could have been victims of domestic violence.
The real question is how is Alexandria going to resolve this problem?
Homelessness is most easily noticed in larger cities, but it is still present in a smaller city like Alexandria.
I believe there are more homeless people in the larger cities not only because they house a greater population, but because they are more adequately set up to care for them.
Larger cities seem to have more resources set aside for the homeless such as multiple “Salvation Army-type” buildings and shelters. In a smaller city like Alexandria, we only have a secondhand store, a food shelf and privately run organizations. While all of these things are helping the homeless move in the right direction, none of them are able to give the homeless a place to call “home.”
However, many of the homeless face more than just the problem of not having a home. Many of them are out on the streets due to a drug addiction, alcohol addiction or a case of domestic violence.
These are all components that limit a person. If a person is homeless and has a drug problem, he or she is most likely going to be reluctant to give up that drug because it is a way to escape from reality.
Also, treatment for drug addicts is very costly and often not available to those who are homeless. On the other hand, a person who is a victim of domestic violence may feel that he or she has no one to turn to.
These individuals may also feel unworthy of any assistance because all that has been told to them by their abuser is that they are nothing.
Both of these components will contribute to the difficulty of a homeless person getting out of being homeless. By being addicted to drugs they will most likely not have the motivation to go out and get a job, or at least one that pays enough to provide both food and shelter.
By being a person that has been abused they may fear being in the public eye, and not feel confident enough in themselves to please an interviewer.
I believe that it is situations like these in which the government should step in and provide rehabilitation services. These are people that are capable of working and holding a steady job; they just need some help getting to that point.
In recent years the government has cut funding to such programs, but since that has been done more people are suffering rather than benefiting.
I do believe that individuals are in control of their own destiny; that if they are homeless they do have the power to get themselves out of it and on to something better. They just have to have the will first.
However, some people don’t get the chance to start out on a good note. If they grew up in a family that was homeless they do not have a foundation to go off of to get somewhere in life.
This is where I believe the government should step in to at least place the opportunity in front of these individuals. These people will still have to work in order to get to where they want to be; it will not just be handed to them, but the opportunity will be there for them.
Most people that are homeless do not choose to be. They are usually homeless as a result of a series of unfortunate events. I once read a story about a girl named Rebecca, who some people would say “chose” to be homeless. When she was 12 and 13 she was repeatedly raped and beaten by her father, and later her mother’s boyfriend.
When she turned 14, she confronted her mother about what was going on. Her mother didn’t think much of the situation and Rebecca left.
At first, she stayed with friends but was later forced out onto the streets. She turned to sleeping with guys to get a roof over her head, and drugs to escape her harsh reality.
She felt as if she didn’t have anyone and that no one cared about her. Luckily, right before she hit rock bottom two volunteers, Dominic and Gerry, entered her life.
Just by them being there to talk to her and give her some of their time made a world of difference for Rebecca. She went from being suicidal to feeling like she had a purpose in life within a short period of time.
The mental toll that homelessness takes on a person is unbelievable. As it was previously mentioned in the story of Rebecca, it can drive a person over the edge. The pain of being homeless is only eased when a caring individual enters the scene.
I believe there are many caring individuals in a community like Alexandria. I think if Alexandria’s population as a whole becomes more observant of what is going on within the community, the problem of homelessness can be defeated.
Simple things like noticing a person without a jacket in the dead of winter loitering inside a store could help in resolving the problem. It could help because it could then lead to the observer becoming involved and taking the initiative in getting to know that person.
And as it was stated earlier, sometimes the most helpful thing for a homeless person is a friend.
I feel that the town is not adequately set up to house the homeless, but does have the volunteers to make a difference in the lives of the homeless. I rest assured that with growing organizations like the United Way, the homeless will continue to have a place to turn to. And hopefully, sometime in the near future, there will be a place set up specifically for rehabilitating those who need it.