Human fears are sometimes driven by first impressions based solely on appearance. The homeless are often unfortunate victims of these invalidated perceptions.
The motivation for me to write this article came after a woman recently called the police because she was afraid for the safety of children near a school when a homeless man was walking by.
Keep in mind, the call wasn’t prefaced with “an armed homeless man”, or a “drunk homeless man”. Nor was there any indication of ANY threat other than “a homeless person” was nearby.
This really bothered me.
It’s socially unacceptable to racially profile, or to discriminate against someone based on gender, religion or sexual orientation, yet it’s seemingly okay to openly profile socioeconomically. Whether someone is black, white, male, female, dirty or clean, our fears come down to judging someone based only on their appearance.
In this case, I guess someone who is dirty is somehow a danger to others.
The first thought that went through my head was “does having a home make someone less dangerous?” Surprisingly, I know of many instances where homeowners committed crimes, so that logic seems a bit flawed.
I’ve never understood why we as a society look down upon our homeless. Many of our homeless are veterans. Many are average people who simply fell on hard times and couldn’t recover (which a large portion of our nation could also fall victim to at any time). But rather than helping these people, we overlook them and fear them.
I’m not saying you need to stop and have a conversation with every homeless person you come across, nor am I saying you need to give money to all of them, but I am saying maybe we as a society should show a little empathy.
If someone is committing a crime, by all means call the police. If you’re uncomfortable around someone, maintain your situational awareness, but ask yourself what it is you’re afraid of.
Perhaps the true fear is we could end up there ourselves…
~ Marty ~