J500 Media and the Environment

Do You Know What Being Homeless Looks Like? by hollyee
July 26, 2009, 12:40 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 6, Society + Media

Two children enjoying the summer.Children having a snack.

Children enjoying snacks and having fun.


Do you think you would be able to identify who is homeless? There are two pictures–  one picture was photographed by Richard Gwin and published in the Lawrence Journal-World to illustrate the closing of a homeless shelter and the other is of my children. In these pictures, one child is severely disabled. Is the disabled child homeless?

We have come a long way as a society in accepting and helping people who are different. Yet we still make assumptions about people depending on their “label.” Because I told you the children in one of the photographs were in a homeless shelter, did you assume the children were homeless and that their parents were irresponsible? Our assumptions hurt.

Over the last two months, our KU graduate class has stepped in to do service work for the Lawrence Community Shelter. I went beyond the research and spent time with the people staying at the LCS. Like you, I thought I could pick a homeless person out of a crowd.

I shared stories, laughs and time with people on the porch. Late at night, they like to talk, just like we might on our front porch. Their stories were of repeated obstacles–lost jobs, severely sick children, family deaths, business failures, imprisonment and loss of family connections.

Like all of us, they made mistakes. They paid dearly for their mistakes, unlike many of us. The most surprising thing I learned was that most have hope for the future and a delightful sense of humor. They also have a community at the LCS. They care about each other and give each other support.

I was touched by the informal “families” that have formed at LCS. One couple I met are raising a baby together and planning for a better life. They met on the streets, and he is looking after the child as his own.  Maintaining social structures is critical, and I truly appreciate the importance of the LCS. The homeless are not that different from you and I. Consider helping the homeless rather than shunning them.

Holly E.


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