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Freiheit: What Do Homeless People Really Need?

What Do Homeless People Really Need? We are asked this often at Shepherds of Good Hope. People want to hear about things like linens, hygiene items and food. As a charity, we greatly appreciate those donations.

There are other needs that we don’t often think about, like social inclusion and meaningful connections. Homeless people want to be truly seen and know that they matter. Too often, they experience judgment, apathy, condescension, pity.

Beginning in 2010, World Homeless Day has been held annually on October 10th to draw attention to the needs of homeless people and provide opportunities for communities to become involved and aware. It’s a chance for schools, businesses, politicians, groups and individuals to understand homelessness and to create awareness so that we can work together to positively impact communities around the world.

At Shepherds of Good Hope, we witness the stigmazation and discrimination of our clients and residents daily. They’re judged because they don’t have a home. They may not be at a point in their lives to be employed. They have inadequate access to basic supports and services that you and I take for granted. They’re kicked out of shopping malls, libraries, parks and community gathering places and are called bums, wild, lazy, junkies. You name the vile word and it’s been hurled at them. They’re told they’re not welcome to move into neighbourhoods.

When I moved into my home, there were no expectations to disclose to my neighbours whether I had a history of mental illness or if I intended to drink alcohol or use substances. I’m pretty sure there were none for you either. I wasn’t asked to be kept behind a gate and my every movement monitored. I didn’t have to pass inspection by committee or public consultation. I wasn’t asked why I chose my neighbourhood or whether there were already enough “people like me” around. The assumption was that I chose it because it was a nice community that I wanted to be part of. Why, then, are people who are experiencing homelessness treated differently?

Their needs are no different than yours or mine. Their histories aren’t too different either. Many people at our shelter have had jobs, families, careers, homes, highs and lows, just like us. They’ve had successes, challenges, setbacks and struggles, just like you and me I. They want to be like us, to live well. They want to live their best lives as they determine it, not as anyone else might.

World Homeless Day is an opportunity for us to reflect on the systems that create and maintain homelessness; systems we can positively impact. We can advocate for affordable housing with community supports. We can help organizations whose values align with ours. We can speak out against stigma and discrimination. We can educate ourselves about the links between homelessness, trauma, mental health and addictions. We can see homeless people for who they are. People, who deserve to be valued and respected. On World Homeless Day, let’s change our corners of the world one day, one person, one action at a time. We can end homelessness together. Let’s do it.

Homes for all. Community for all. Hope for all.