Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Culturally Homeless

When someone becomes homeless, it is a tragedy, both for themselves and for society. When that person remains homeless for a long period of time, for the sake of survival, they become acculturated to their situation. At this point, homelessness is not simply a situation—tragic or otherwise—it becomes a lifestyle, and that lifestyle eventually becomes a way of looking at life. This would happen to any of us, as human beings, for we are adaptable to various environments. Even the most socially awkward and mentally ill, as long as they aren’t severely developmentally disabled, is able to handle a difficult survival situation. I have seen people who have severe schizophrenia be unable to distinguish the difference between the people in front of them and the ones in their heads, but still be able to survive in the third world context on the street.

Following this, I am going to be posting a number of characteristics of those who are chronically homeless-- homeless for at least a year. These characteristics become a part of their cultural landscape, not just a temporary response to one's circumstances, but a way of looking at life. For this reason, if one becomes homeless long term, they don't just leave it once they are off the street. Homelessness stamps them, changes their outlook permanently.

This needs to be remembered as we offer services to the homeless, especially if we are working on "ending homelessness." In the end, there is no such thing as ending homelessness. Because even if you find a chronically homeless person a home, they still have the culture of a homeless person. Some of this we may want to help change, but much of it we do not.

There should be approximately 20 characteristics of the chronically homeless. If you can't find them all, check the tag: Homeless Culture.

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