We Are All Homeless: It’s Time to Change the Narrative


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.

It is important to remember that homeless people are just like everyone else. They are human beings who deserve our compassion and understanding. We should not judge them based on their circumstances, but instead try to help them get back on their feet.

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”…


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  • 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.


Dennis Pitocco
Dennis Pitocco
DENNIS is the Founder & Chief ReImaginator of 360° Nation, encompassing a wide range of multimedia enterprises, including BizCatalyst 360° —the award-winning global media digest; 360° Nation Studios —dedicated to reaching across the world in an effort to capture, produce, and deliver positive, uplifting messages via blockbuster global events, and; GoodWorks 360° —a pro-bono consulting foundation focused entirely on providing mission-critical advisory services to nonprofits worldwide. Collaborating with his Chief Inspiration Officer (and wife), Ali, everything they do is "for-good" vs. "for profit". Their mission over the past decade-plus has been to rediscover humanity at its best, influencing and showcasing it every step of the way. Together, they do their very best to figure out what the world is trying to be —then using all their resources to help it to be better every day in every way. They understand and embrace the notion that it’s not about me or you; it’s about caring for the people we serve and more responsibly stewarding the precious resources in our care. And they believe it’s about showing up, being present, and intentionally giving our invaluable gifts of time, talent, and treasure "for good". Dennis is a contributing author to these Best-Selling Books ♦ Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational ChangeJourney Well, You Are More Than EnoughThe Four-Fold Formula For All Things Wellness: True Stories of the Heart, Spirit, Mind, and Body Voices of Strength Win the Wellness W.A.R. We Are Responsible

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  1. Thank you so kindly, Dennis.

    I would also like to emphatically say that spontaneous random acts of kindness generates so many blessing, reflects on our inner gratitude, create a happiness within, helps us gain energy and boosts our self-esteem, and can even make us live longer.

    I also dare state that kindness CAN be taught… oh yes, by personal demonstration of “goodness”, and this can be very contagious.

    Wow…. Amazing, right?

  2. “..often misunderstood, stigmatized, and seen as a personal failing rather than a systemic problem.” Yes!

    Dennis, as you know, I live in NYC, a city with a large homeless, unsheltered, unhoused population growing daily with the influx of migrants seeking protection from the violence of their home nation. Most of the effort of the government officials involved is in trying to find them adequate shelter. I am reminded of our own great depression that threw millions out of work, out of their homes, and into the humiliation of the breadline.

    When I was a teacher back in the day, one of the films I showed was of FDR’s effort to give these people back something as important as food: their pride. FDR’s alphabet programs put people back to work in service of society. Yes, some of the programs were questionable, but they changed the equation.

    Now, before certain voices scream, “SOCIALISM!” I’m not advocating for those programs here. What I am advocating for is different – innovative – thinking by our government officials. The last time there was an across-the-aisle, bipartisan effort to deal rationally with immigration was, I believe, at least 10 years ago. Only focusing on the symptoms of the issue is like idling at a light.

    Thank you, as always, for what you do.

    • Thanks for taking us for a walk down memory lane, Jeff, when FDR focused on the missing elements. As you know, it’s not just about shelter or food. It is indeed about pride and DIGNITY … Which is precisely why we need to do our level-best to “change the narrative”, my friend..

  3. The public perception of homeless people is infested with prejudices. And often the institutions’ approach is ineffective because it is only aimed at placating taxpayers’ complaints, and not at finding sustainable and humane solutions for all the people involved.
    I know about this problem because in my youth I was part of a homeless support group that was particularly active in the winter. Now I financially support 2 associations that deal with these unfortunate people.
    Yes, because I’ve heard incredible stories about the causes (each one is a case in itself): job loss, illness, divorce, lack of family or social support, psychic trauma. While the consequences include: isolation, alcoholism, drug use, disease, premature death.
    Only a small number of people choose to be homeless nomads.
    What struck me most in these experiences is that it is often difficult to offer adequate assistance to the homeless: the homeless have an obsessive thought of estrangement from reality, they refuse assistance for ideological, psychological or even hygienic reasons at their disposal.

  4. “Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” ~ Og Mandino

  5. Thank you, Dennis, for sharing this moving story. There are literally 1000’s of “unique stories” that could, would and should inspire each one of us into ACTION – not procrastination.

    We had just initiated our “Just Do It … whatever you can RIGHT NOW” program. Long story short.
    We found a paraplegic beggar seated on a wooden platform. He did look rather dirty, wrapped with what once resembled a shirt & shorts to highlight his deformed paralyzed legs and knotted knees.
    We asked him if he was hungry, would like some, food, clean clothes , shelter etc. the answer was an emphatic (translated) YES.
    He was given a medical examination & then welcomed to the Shelter where there were a few other “friends”. The program identified the abilities of each of these “friends” & offered opportunities to contribute to earning something for themselves. This “gentleman” could move his right forefinger. The program created a job for him where all he had to do was press a simple RED button to staple bubble packs. He was paid and today is one of the happiest, most smiling person you could ever encounter.
    YES… the program did not merely create jobs but also made them Tax Payers and a contributing member of society.

    • Yet another powerful story, my friend. And an amazing one, as it all started with reaching out with kindness – and transformed a life. Thanks for sharing, as it takes so little to do so much for so many.