There is a “safe” outdoor area I stay most nights where many homeless people choose to find haven to sleep and rest. When I started to stay there I was worried that I would stand out and look out of place. (Are my clothes too nice? Is my hair too short? etc…) However I was surprised to find out that fitting or blending in would be quite easy.
I really did not have to worry about looking homeless.
Come to find out there are people with nicer packs and sleeping bags than me. There are people wearing nicer clothes than I have on. There are men cleanly shaven and speak without stuttering. There are women with styled hair and designer jeans.
They are all not drunks, addicts, beggars, prostitutes, and criminals. What were these people doing here?
A few night ago I was entering the homeless area and was walking behind a man wearing a suit, wool overcoat, dress shoes, and jewelry who was talking on his smartphone all “business like.” I assumed he was a volunteer or visitor saying hello or helping a friend in need. He was dressed way to nice to be sleeping outdoors. “He has to be visiting” I assured myself.
He was not. He was staying the night just like me.
Maybe he is on a Lenten fast and writing a blog as well…but I imagine that’s not the case.
Soon after he arrived…he took off his jacket, shoes, and tie right after grabbing his sleeping mat. Then not five minutes later he quickly went right to sleep near a man with a long beard, broken shoes, and dirty clothes. I wanted to capture the image…but I don’t have a camera. Just a basic go phone.
It appears this man has a job and one that requires a suit and smartphone. (Many people who work and live here wear construction clothes, factory uniforms, and have a basic cell phone to use). But I was surprised to see the suit…I was still in my stereotype.
Homelessness can happen to anyone. It’s not just for people who refuse work or desire a life out on the streets. Especially in this economy people who are not typically stereotyped as “homeless” have found themselves living on the streets or shelters as a last resort. They are living day by day to make ends meet while still retaining some type of job.
But one that requires a suit? I did not have that in my packing list.