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Questions You’re Afraid to Ask

Aly Hathcock

homeless man - AlyI first saw a homeless person while visiting New York City during middle school. Since then, I’ve encountered dozens of homeless individuals. Some hold signs. Others hold a cup for loose change. Some get up the courage to speak; others refuse to make eye contact. Last summer, I decided that I couldn’t keep walking and driving past street people, never asking the questions that ran through my mind. So I decided to do two things: to spend time with homeless people in my area, loving them as well as I could, and to record the stories of people I met.

 

How did you become homeless?

No two stories are the same. One friend became homeless when his mother died and the house where he lived was foreclosed on. Then he fell into the wrong crowd and started using drugs and alcohol. Another friend lost her job when she had knee surgery. Then she lost her apartment. For six years, she has been “bouncing around from place to place, trying to find work.”

Other stories included abuse, bad family situations, medical problems, financial instability, job loss. One friend was living paycheck to paycheck. When she lost her job at a fast food restaurant, she lost her apartment. Another friend was kicked out of his parents’ house when he was a teenager because he was gay. Other friends left home, choosing to live on the streets because the people they had lived with abused them.

Why don’t you get a job?

homeless shopping - AlyApplications and documentation requirements make finding employment difficult. All job applications ask for an address! Homeless people carry their possessions with them and can easily lose important papers. Yet, without a birth certificate, Social Security card, passport, or driver’s license, they cannot legally get a job. Keeping a job means finding transportation to and from work and keeping up personal hygiene, both of which are almost impossible.

Other reasons the homeless struggle to get jobs include lacking the necessary skills, physical and mental health issues, and a bad economy. One friend had never used a computer and preferred using his hands to do construction or landscaping. My friend who had knee surgery was told by every potential employer that she was too much of a liability.

What do you want to do with the future?

In spite of their struggles, most homeless people I’ve met have a positive outlook about the future. A mother of two children wants to own a daycare and to see her children happy. My friend who had knee surgery wants to be mayor of a large city so she can do more to help the homeless. The man who walked a dark path after losing his mom wants to become a better man and a better father to his children. A homeless pastor wants to continue serving the Lord.

 

DIG DEEPER

One of the homeless people I met told me this: “Don’t judge homeless people, because you don’t know their story. They eat, they breathe, they walk, they talk, just like you do.” How can you enter into the lives and stories of the homeless community to offer hope and healing?

homeless line - Aly

Want to hear more? Check out “Spending the Summer with the Homeless” to watch Aly’s video “Unseen—No Ordinary Story” and to hear stories of life on the streets of Birmingham, Alabama.

Aly Hathcock is a multimedia storyteller who loves Jesus and adventure. Find out more about her at alyhathcock.com and on Twitter at @alyhathcock.

—from devozine (January/February 2016). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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