In my head, I logically know facts about people who are homeless.
I know that over 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness each year or that 35,000 Canadians experience homelessness on any given night. I’ve read the stats that 50,000+ Canadians experience hidden homelessness (couch surfing, sleeping in a car, or other precarious housing). I hear that 10% of Canadian families live below the low income cut off line or that 14% of children live in poverty. I know that youth and aboriginals are more likely to face homelessness, and many people are a paycheque or an unexpected bill away from no longer having a roof over their heads.
It’s not hard to know logically that these people all came from people, just like everyone else. That there was once a mother, a father and/or other people who loved them and cared for them. Many of these people who are homeless still have so many people from their life who care for them, even if they don’t have any extra resources physically or emotionally to offer them or can offer resources that someone will take at this moment. We all know this. We all know that people who are homeless don’t just magically appear. We know that they come from families of all different shapes and sizes. We know that they’ve often faced things that are difficult to deal with, things that would make others crumble; often situations far outside of their control.
But so often we forget.
We forget that somewhere in this world, they had baby pictures lovingly taken. That there were birthdays and anniversaries and celebrations of all of their milestones. We don’t see the joy of Christmas mornings past, or the dreams they had for the future. We don’t know what dish they’re famous for making, or where their passions lie. We don’t know if they liked gym, math or art best in school. We don’t know what songs brings back memories or what colour they love best.
We as a society so often forget.
We forget to see them as people who have kids they lovingly raised with all sorts of hopes and dreams cast forward upon them. We forget that they worked three jobs to try to make ends meet. We forget that their friends and families lie awake at night wondering if they’re okay, and hoping for the best.
We forget that none of us are immune to any of this. We forget that these lives weren’t always like this. That those who happen to be homeless have lives that started out the same as anyone who isn’t homeless – just happening to be born in a certain time and a certain place with a life yet unfolded, stories to be written. We forget that it could be us: that each and everyone one of these people could so easily be someone from the story of our lives, with a simple twist of circumstance.
So often we make assumptions when we should be listening. We often spend more time worrying about ourselves than we do our neighbours – with or without homes. We get wrapped up in the shuffle of our daily lives and we forget about the people behind each person. We lose sight of the fact that these are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and everything else who have so much good to offer this world. We forget to look deeper to see the soul deep within each person. We hear the statistics and turn the page in the newspaper when we should be having real, honest, genuine conversations that start with simple and basic questions;
Where did you come from?
What makes you smile?
Who are you in the corners of your soul?
Who do you want to be in this world?
How can I help?
Oh – and what’s your favourite colour?