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The Shield

Not all homeless

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A tin cup, a cardboard box, and mittens without fingers.

A picture of a homeless man with a scraggly beard was just painted. This is how homelessness is portrayed; a simple white sign reading ‘will work for food.’

Dr. Jim O’Connell, the keynote speaker in Carter Hall last Monday, sought to dispel the universally accepted stereotype of what homelessness is.

Living in Evansville, Indiana, which can hardly be considered city living, homelessness is not on the radar of residents as much as residents of Chicago, IL.

It is a classic act to fill what is not fully understood with stereotypes.

Like plumber’s putty in the foundation of a house, stereotypes attempt to replace an understanding of the individual stories of the homeless. Each story is unique, and unique stories make it hard to lump people into a category.

Not all homeless people are on the streets because of drug addictions, yet some are.

Not all homeless people are capable of working, but some are.

Not all homeless people have a family to feed, but some do.

Homelessness does not fit neatly into the cardboard box the homeless man is pictured sleeping in every night.

Homelessness is not about taking advantage of other people’s money, and it’s not about being lazy.

Believe it or not, sitting on the side of the street is not exactly a money-making tactic.
Sitting on the side of the street waiting for the pity of a passerby is humiliating; it is shame at its lowest form.

No homeless person has an evil scheme of becoming homeless just so they can collect a handful of free quarters.

It’s kind of ridiculous Americans think a homeless person would rather sleep on a cold bench in a park than get a job and be able to buy a bed to sleep in.

It is difficult to understand such a disdain for homelessness. If Americans could only put themselves in someone else’s shoes for five minutes, there would be so much more empathy and sympathy.

“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
These are the words of rebuke many give to individuals who feed or give money to those sitting on the side of a street.

Yet, these are the same people who don’t even look the homeless in the eye as they quickly walk past.

Don’t scoff at others for feeding the man a fish, if you are not going to teach him how to fish. Ignoring the problem is just as bad as perpetuating the problem.

Homeless is an adjective, not a noun.

When we start seeing homeless people as individuals with individual stories, we will be one step closer to finding a solution.

Until that solution is reached, show compassion, show love and show understanding.

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University of Southern Indiana's student publication
Not all homeless