Why the homeless in America Should Never work. I remember once when I was selling my street paper outside of the Ann Arbor YMCA, a woman approached me with the judgmental look that people often give people in my situation. She even went so far as to demonstrably bend down and pick up a candy wrapper that was not too far me as if to suggest that I should have done it first. I recall that moment because I had had a particularly awful night’s sleep in my car, had missed eating at the breakfast church and, and barely had enough energy to hold my papers let alone bend down to pick up a candy wrapper.
It was clear that this woman had had a good night sleep, more than likely had eaten a good breakfast, was well dressed and perfectly fit for a good days work out. I slightly envied her energy and had a momentary flashback to the days when I too would readily picked up a candy wrapper.
But for many years the idea has persisted that the homeless is comprised of lazy, non-working bums who hate to work. The image of a lazy hapless unshaven, disheveled person makes up our perception of the homeless. The formula for getting this person back to normal society in the minds of the simple one dimensional thinkers of our world is always the easily available response of” get a job.” Time and time again this is the wrong answer and will always be. It is such an egregiously misinformed response that it becomes ludicrous when juxtaposed against the realities.
No person experiencing homelessness should ever work on any job. Homelessness is a traumatic experience that requires every amount of both emotional and psychological energy in which to cope and survive. One has to call on a huge store of reserves to combat the devastation of losing one's home and consequently often living in the elements. .
The fact that our society has placed homelessness in an area wherein people are looked down uponin no way negates the brutal truth that the vulnerable position that one finds herself deserves nothing less than a quick response of support and a place to recover in a medical and clean, sanitary setting.
And then there is the issue of sleep. For a homeless individual sleep is never guaranteed. Sleep deprivation is one of the ongoing maladies that affects this population. There is a huge amount of sleep deprivation which would render anyone useless in a job setting. Many jobs require handling special machinery, caring for others, or other jobs which should not be performed by an individual who is not alert.
Since our government does not provide a place of recovery for a person without a home, much of our energy is spent piecing together a normal existence while living in the elements.
So the next time you tell a homeless person to get a job, remember she or he already has one ---it’s called survival.