Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Returning Views on Homelessness: A Need for Clarity, Empathy, and Solidarity

While last year was not my first experience with homelessness, it was one of my first opportunities to learn about the experiences of homelessness while building relationships with people who were affected by homelessness. Since the trip last year, I have learned a lot about homelessness and oppression in general. I recently read an article by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw entitled “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.” While this article was about Feminism, it did have some interesting points about homelessness. The article told a story about a Latina woman who was living on the streets with her son. She was rejected by a shelter because of a language barrier. While her small son was able to translate, the shelter did not accommodate the woman because they thought her lack of English was too significant to admit her. This made me think of the current social attitudes towards people who are affected by homelessness. We sometimes live in a very negative society; one in which people make excuses and focus on minute social imperfections that permit us to ignore the situation that many find themselves in; we focus on language barriers instead of recognizing that someone is affect by unfortunate circumstances. Furthermore, many people lack what might be essential in order to begin to tackle homelessness: we live in a world where unusual circumstances prompt curiosity of surface details: “Where do you get food? Where do you sleep?” and often fall short of the necessary questions such as “What is it like to be homeless? What is it like to spend a day as you?” Once we reach a point past surface curiosity and approach a sincere concern for the well-being of someone affect by homelessness—this is when we can finally begin to say that we are on the path of fighting homelessness. It is my hope that on this trip, we will all have a chance to interact with people affected by homelessness and hear about their experiences so we can begin this fight in solidarity. It is, after all, in solidarity that change can occur.

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