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The Uphill Battle of Homelessness

“To be homeless you have to be creative to survive.” ~ Kateri, formerly homeless artist

The uphill battle of homlessness is a cyclical pattern that seems impossible to break free from. It takes creativity, compassion and people working together to serve one another and never giving up. 

One segment of my interview with Nicole Minyard on the Real Hope Podcast stood out to me. Nicole told me about one of the artists she works with at Daybreak Arts named A.M. Hassam.

A.M. earned a degree in Architectural Engineering and Construction and lost her job in California. Her unemployment check got stolen in the mail and the slide to homlessness continued with an eviction.

After landing a new job while camping and living out of her car, she showed up showered and ready for work on time every day. But when her employer discovered she wasn’t living in a home and didn’t use an accurate address in her application, she was again fired.

These kinds of stories are happening across the US.

Skyrocketing rent and housing prices sent Joshua, a 19 year old, to the streets of Denver, Colorado after fleeing abuse in his home.

The pandemic’s economic impact has also increased the number of households facing housing instability. Federal and state funds are available for Colorado renters facing eviction, but many landlords aren’t accepting these types of finances.

There are so many challenges the homeless community face. In my conversation with Niocle, we discussed one of these challenges being that home status is not a protected class. Federal hate crime laws do not include homeless individuals as a protected class. 

Job security is another major hurdle in the many, many difficulties there are to break the cycle of homelessness in someone’s life. In the job market it is difficult to avoid discrimination from other employees and leadership unless they have a real heart to help break the cycle.

Breaking the Stigma 

It’s important we all grow in compassion and understanding to not paint with broad strokes and stereotype with accusations like, “homeless people are lazy and don’t want to work.”

Back to A.M. Hassan’s story: her work has been featured at exhibits like the Art Gallery in the Nashville Parthenon and has been featured on the Nashville Sign Billboard. Her mediums of choice are acrylic, oil, and watercolor. A.M. is inspired by scenery and elegantly translates her experiences in ethereal paintings.

Take a look at this beautiful watercolor of hers called, Tree Limb Sunset. This is a perfect example of a talented formerly homeless person who faced a snowball effect of circumstances and wound up living in her car and campgrounds.

Caption: To view Tree Limb Sunset and more of Hassam’s work click here.

Another major factor as to why it’s so difficult to get out of the grip of homelessness is the cyclical effect one’s circumstances has on their mental health. Many times when life blows up, it’s difficult to stand back up and keep fighting.

This excerpt by Fred Victor rings true for many facing homelessness: “Very often, the condition of people’s mental health makes it impossible to obtain and keep a job. Even common mental illnesses like anxiety disorder or depression can throw a wrench into simple tasks like a job routine, getting up in the morning or self-care.” 

The stigma is that homeless people are “lazy and just need to find a job.” It’s not that people experiencing homelessness do not want to work, most of the time it is just close to impossible.

The uphill battle of homelessness can feel never ending to those experiencing homelessness. The only way to break the cycle is to gain compassion for the individual and their story. Have you ever stopped to take a second to really take in the scenery around you? I think we all have at one point or another. But we tend to not do this for people. 

We tend to run so quickly that we miss the whole point: to connect and listen to one another. Stereotypes are broken when we are able to slow down long enough to learn something new about someone’s situation. The next time you see a homeless person, instead of ignoring them, I encourage you to acknowledge them. Listen to their story and in turn we can break the stigma centered around homelessness. 

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