Why Are People Homeless?

This past Saturday, my wife, family, and I drove to Waco, Texas to support our local high school band as they performed in a UIL marching competition.

We arrived in Waco about 10:30am, well before competition time, so that we could go onto the campus of Baylor University to see the bears (BU’s mascots) in their dens and eat our picnic lunch at a large, wooded park just west of downtown.

Nice middle-class things to do on beautiful Saturday day-trip.

But, as we drove through the city center area of Waco on the way to Cameron Park, we saw something not quite so beautiful … a number of homeless people sitting on street curbs at intersections, walking down side-streets, leaning against the walls of the Salvation Army, and riding bicycles with strapped-on milk crates that contained all of the biker’s worldly possessions. 

Our children were overcome by the sight of so many homeless people. They began to ask the kind of questions that you’d expect pre-teen and teen-age kids to ask: “Why are these people homeless?” “Where do they sleep at night?” “Don’t they have families and jobs?” “Where are they from?”

My wife and I tried to answer the kid’s questions as best as we could. Admittedly, the answers were very simple: “Homeless people are homeless for many reasons.” “They either sleep at the mission or on the street.” “They probably have family somewhere.” “They’re from everywhere.”

These simple answers seemed to satisfy our children’s curiosity, but we all know that the issue of poverty and homelessness is a very complex one. And it can be a very emotional and distasteful subject that many in comfortable, middle and upper-class America would rather ignore and not even talk about.

As we drove home after the marching competition later that afternoon I continued to think about my family’s conversation that morning about homelessness and poverty. When we got home I went to the computer and did some searching about poverty and homelessness. There’s alot of information out there and many organizations and community and faith-based groups seeking to bring relief to the impoverished and homeless.

Over the next week or so I would like to share with you some of the information that I am finding out about those who live in the “other” America of poverty and homelessness.

As I do, I pray that you and I will remember that we are not just talking about facts, numbers, and statistics, we are talking about men, women, boys, and girls – people just like you, me, and our families.

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3 Comments on “Why Are People Homeless?”

  1. Nomi Says:

    I am facing homelessness in 3 weeks simply because no one will hire me and I have exhausted all of my resources. I am a college-educated, single mother; I have no criminal record to speak of, nor do I abuse drugs and alcohol, and I apply for jobs every single day (over 40 in the last month). I will be homeless – lose everything – simply because no one will give me a chance.

    So much for the American Dream.


  2. I have experienced the misery of homelessness at several points in my life and, although there is a certain sense of freedom to it, it is a dangerous and miserable lifestyle that is hard to rise out of.
    Contrary to popular belief, most homeless did not become so out of choice. Most did not become homeless because they are lazy, stupid, or immoral. Many homeless people are victims of abuse in the form of neglect and abandonment by their parents or other caregivers. Like many victims of abuse, a lot of them have chemical dependency problems. Their existence is so miserable that they use alcohol or other drugs as an escape. Some of them are simply victims of life’s tragedies, such as hurricanes, fires, or other catastrophes from which they simply don’t have the resources to recover.
    Also, there is a snowball effect that occurs with homelessness. After all, who is going to hire someone with no address? Most homeless people don’t have the resources to even do their laundry; who is going to hire someone in filthy clothes? Also once a person has fallen to the level of living on the streets it is very difficult for them to get a job even if they are capable of working, because the condition of homelessness creates a low sense of self-esteem which makes it difficult to relate to other people. It is difficult to find, much less keep a job once a person’s self-esteem is so badly damaged.
    I invite you to my website: http://www.FreetheGods.com. There you will find pictures I have taken of homeless people. I always give them a dollar or two for the privilege of photographing them. Usually, I am surprised by their cheerfulness and sense of pride. Often, they will show themselves to have some kind of talent. There is a fine line between genius and insanity.
    David Settino Scott, III


  3. It’s great that you answered your kids’ questions with open statements. Homeless people cannot all be lumped into any one category. Like David mentions, many have gone through extreme trauma in their lives before ending up homeless. Sometimes, past experiences and abuses lead to substance abuse, sometimes not. Homelessness truly is an unhappy place to be for most people and it’s a tough cycle to break.


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