Many of us feel uncomfortable and nervous when we come across homeless people carrying signs asking for money. We cross the street or look away to avoid making eye contact. Designer and artist Willie Baronet started buying signs from the homeless as a way to deal with his discomfort. In 1993, he embarked on a cross-country trip, buying signs from homeless people from Seattle to New York City. Along the way, something in him shifted in the way he felt about the homeless, as he got to know them as people. It was no longer “them and me” – now it was “us.”
Let’s Change the Narrative
The time is long overdue to give a voice to those unfortunate and often mischaracterized and misunderstood souls living on the street. It’s time to dismantle the harmful, false narrative that homelessness is by choice. The most common misconception about people experiencing homelessness is that they want to live on the street. This myth enables apathy and maintains the status quo of too many people experiencing homelessness.
The idea that people who are homeless choose to live on the street perpetuates the false narrative that, unlike other people, they do not need or want stability.
People living on the street for long periods often suffer from co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. They are criminalized for being homeless, racking up nuisance crimes—such as trespassing, panhandling, public drinking and urination, and sleeping in public spaces—which can lead to a street-to-jail cycle that is hard to break. Street life is punishing. People are frequently victimized, adding to a lifetime of trauma that can come with being poor. Chronic physical health problems, like hypothermia, are sometimes a consequence of homelessness, while others, such as diabetes, are difficult to treat when sleeping on the street. In a lot of ways, our safety net has failed people over and over again.
Before you ignore another homeless person on the street, just remember that that could be someone’s father or someone’s mother and they have a story.
— Syesha Mercado
It is a complex and pressing issue affecting millions of people worldwide. It is a condition that is often misunderstood and stigmatized and is often seen as a personal failing rather than a systemic problem. Which is why it’s time for us to change the narrative.
Let’s change the narrative, starting with the word “Homeless” which is stigmatizing and conjures up misconceptions while carrying a negative connotation. “Unsheltered” is more neutral, and casts a wider net beyond unhoused, including those whose primary nighttime residence is unsuitable for human habitation (i.e., a city sidewalk, vehicle, abandoned building, or park).
It’s time for real stories to be told by the unsheltered and by those who can speak about and for them so we can debunk the myths “for good”…
—WORLDWIDE CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS—
CLICK FOR PRESS RELEASE ► Breakthrough Unsheltered Anthology Book Series Launched
WE NEED STORYTELLERS, including:
- those who; are currently unsheltered/homeless; have been unsheltered/homeless in the past
- those who have been affected indirectly/a degree removed from being unsheltered/homeless (family members, friends, co-workers, etc. .)
- those who are familiar with the personal and global effects of the unsheltered/homeless population,
- organizations and causes who are on the ground facing daily struggles with those who are unsheltered/homeless and who have stories to tell.