Homeless and Human

Carl - Fulton, New York
Entered on February 26, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe that everyone should try to walk in the shoes of a homeless person, if only for a day. Homeless people are human too. They have feelings, wants and needs.

Please close your eyes and imagine: a cardboard box, the concrete abutment under an overpass, or a park bench. Now picture the same things, adding snow and temperatures below freezing.

What do these things have in common? These are places that you would find a homeless person sleeping, where they keep all of their most treasured possessions, regardless of how trivial the item may seem to everyone else.

Can you imagine yourself, having to worry everyday about where your next meal is going to come from, if it is to come at all? Always wondering, is someone going to harm you while you are sleeping? You beg for spare change, but, people ignore you because they think you just want booze. You try the local shelters, but they are either full or the line is so long that by the time you get to the door, you are turned away because they ran out of room. You want to work, but no one will hire you because of your appearance, but you can’t change your appearance because you have no place to take a shower. You try to get help from an agency, but they won’t help you because you have no “identity”, because everything was taken from you. You run into a hurdle no matter which way you turn, with no way to get over it, continuing a vicious circle to which you can find no end.

You wonder at times if life is even worth living, wishing you had the guts to end it, to end the pain. You find the strength to go on for another day, hoping that someone will find it in their heart to give you a chance. You want another chance to become something more. You depend on your belief in people, because that is all you really have. Faith pays off, and you find what you have been hoping for. Someone cared enough to point you in the right direction.

I have seen, first hand, what homelessness does to people. I have seen, first hand, people that have given up because they didn’t know where else to turn, or when they do find the help that is so desperately needed, there is “no room”. I have seen, first hand, what it is like to be homeless, to sleep under that bridge, under a cardboard box or on a park bench. It is a very cold and lonely place to be. Sometimes a random act of kindness, especially to a homeless person, could be the difference between one extreme and another, maybe even life or death. What would it hurt to give a couple of bucks, or even buy a meal for someone and point them in the right direction, instead of turning a blind eye? Think of how you would feel if you were in that human’s shoes.