Homeless: The Meaning


I’ve always had sympathy for the homeless.  I was always the first to buy them food, give them money, or even share a conversation.

I was also fortunate enough to be able to provide them help through several of the organizations that I was given access to through law school. 

But, on a recent adventure in Portland, that sympathy transformed into deep empathy as we found ourselves plus one car and minus one place to sleep. 


The Joys of Car Camping Cross Country

For the first month of our cross country journey, car camping proved more enjoyable than difficult.  In the rural areas, it was always easier. 

Once we got into a bigger city, the hunt for an appealing and safe parking space became more of a challenge. 

Fortunately, for the larger portion of our travels, there were always a variety of rest areas, truck stops, or grounds to choose from. 

However, that all changed in Portland. 

Due to their growing homeless population, cities like Portland have become stricter with their overnight parking policies.

Since, it was already past midnight, we decided to make the best out of our situation – after all, by then we were convinced that we were experienced nomads. 

We had crossed the seemingly never-ending dirt roads, weathered the sky-blackening storms, and overcame numerous tiny obstacles that entered our path.  So. . . we roughed it out.


Where the Hell Are We Going to Sleep?!

Needless to say, it was an extremely humbling experience.  Our old trivial concerns of having a Wi-Fi connection were replaced with a new difficulty of figuring out where the hell we were going to sleep. 

The sudden shift in priorities altered our mindsets in such a way that really brought us down to earth – which is exactly what we wanted. 

During that process, it made us think even further about the hundreds of homeless people that we have encountered on our journey.  Even as stripped down as we were of our comforts and conveniences, we still had a place to call home. 

We knew that this journey was by choice and not by struggle.  We understood that we had options instead of dead ends.  It truly made us gain a wider perspective on what it really means to be homeless. 


What Does it Really Mean to be Homeless?

I’m not referring to those that are voluntarily houseless.  I don’t mean those that want to rebel and get a different taste of life. 

I’m talking about those that have lost everything.  

I’m speaking about those that are falling asleep each night just hoping for a brighter tomorrow.  Those are the ones that we need to shed some light on. 

When did we as a nation become so cold and detached from human emotion that we view people that are in worse situations as less than us?


Does Money Really Determine Character?

We constantly hear people speaking  negatively about the “homeless”.  They group them together as a general nuisance and bother for those more fortunate. 

Sure, there are those that lie, cheat, and steal, but unfortunately those qualities aren’t limited to only those in times of desperation. 

There are people with homes, money, jobs, and families that do unthinkable things, and yet we don’t carry those judgments onto others with similar status. 

However, when it comes to people living on the street, we often feel too comfortable to label them as lazy, dangerous, or bums.

It has become more convenient for us to feed into the stereotypes, than it is for us to spare a smile – which is sometimes just as good, if not better than a dollar. 


Homeless Describes More Than Living Conditions

Even the word itself: homeless, carries with it a deeper meaning that we seem to have missed as we have diluted our empathy and concentrated our apathy towards our fellow man. 

Homeless doesn’t describe someone who lives on the street.  It’s not someone who has no money or no job. 

Homeless is not someone who makes creative signs out of cardboard and stands on the corner waiting for a stranger’s kindness to make their day. 

Homeless is so much more than that.

Homeless explains a situation that far exceeds the living conditions. 

A person who is homeless isn’t only lacking in a house, but more specifically a home.

For those of us lucky enough to have a place to call home, we understand that it carries more significance than just the four walls and roof that hold up the structure. 

Home is a place of comfort, support, and love.  Home is where we can go after a long day, put our feet up, and exhale in jubilant relief as we feel we can finally relax and unwind. 

Those that are homeless don’t have any of that. 


Getting in Touch With Humanity

When we see someone homeless, we quickly scroll through our phones or look down at our feet. 

We avoid any eye contact as a means to avoid that feeling of pity; when in reality we should be the ones pitied for having lost all touch with humanity. 

It’s all a part of the division tactics which separate us by status, color, gender, or any other arbitrary title.  When, really, we are all just human. 

If, it’s a general consensus that everyone is different and unique, then doesn’t that classification actually make us all the same?  If we’re all individuals, then isn’t that something that binds us, not separates us? 

There are no two people that are alike. 

They might share the same complexion, but a different financial status.  They might share the same block, however speak different languages. 

They may even share the same DNA, yet have completely different perspectives on life.


The Only Category We Need to Use: Human

And, yet, we find ourselves clumping people together into categories that don’t really describe them at all.  The only thing they describe is our ignorance for using them. 

The only true category that accurately describes us all is: human.  And, it’s the one that we all need to learn how to use. 

When we have come to a point where we blatantly ignore our people because they have fallen on hard times, then the point has come to reevaluate just how far we think we have come.


 homeless

11 Comments

  1. A thought-provoking piece. We have a great deal of homeless people near where I live and thankfully there are volunteers serving food etc but it’s never enough.

    We have to remember that they are people just like you and me. One bad situation could have put us in their position.

    • Aleks

      Thank you so much for your kind words. Thought-provoking is the best compliment my writing could get. Also, you’re absolutely right, anything helps but there is always more that can be done. We all could have easily been or could be in that situation and we would only hope to be looked at as people then.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  2. This was beautiful. I don’t want to belittle the gravity of what you’re saying with useless platitudes.

    We need to do better.

    We need to BE better.

    Thank you
    ❤️

    • Aleks

      Thank you so much for that! I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      Your comment is so appreciated ❤️

  3. This couldn’t be more true. I personally deal with homeless people on a daily basis. They can be some of the most caring people you’ll ever meet. Sure there are some bad apples but I’ve met “rich” people that are bad apples. The majority of homeless people I’ve met want to do better, they just don’t know how. Being at the bottom of the social ladder is not an easy place to climb out of. It’s really nice how much you’ve been able to empathize with them during your travels.

    • Aleks

      Thank you for your incredible feedback and contribution! You’re right, there are bad apples everywhere but there’s too much good there to let some negative change that especially when we see such atrocious behavior from those with no excuses or reasons. Positive change starts with positive people doing positive things. Hopefully we can continue sharing our outlooks and affect a wave of change around how we look at those around us.

  4. Really great post! Most of us could never imagine what it is like to be homeless, and you touch on a lot of important points. We can all do better, especially now when the weather is starting to get cold!

    • Aleks

      Definitely!! Thank you so much for your comment!

  5. Thank you for this! I, too, have an enormous amount of sympathy for the homeless. I do my best to help those I come into contact with, but I wish there was something more that I can do.

    • Aleks

      Thank you for your comment! And I know what you mean, I definitely always wish I could do more, but honestly sometimes just having your outlook and being a kind person has such a ripple effect on the rest of humanity that it’s already a good thing!

  6. Neha Verma

    Such a deep and moving reflexing..thats what travel does to us. We are able to see beyond the comfort of our home..we are able to feel what those homeless feel. Hope we are able to do something with every travel about those people …

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