Homelessness sucks. But if you must…

by Christopher Paul on June 3, 2009

I don’t know if I’m paying more attention lately or just simply seeing a lot more instances of homeless people. I certainly hope its my awareness going up and not the actual population of people out on the streets. If it is my awareness, chalk it up to the creativity of those dispersed from a home.

In the major streets of New York, you see them sitting on the sidewalk, leaning up against a building, faces looking downward, cardboard sign in hand (or leaning up against their bodies sitting “Indian Style“). They look dirty – but not too dirty. Almost really, really, grungy… like a Pearl Jam fan who hasn’t showered in a week or so. Sadly, they are young and, at times, with a companion – usually a dog. Other times, they are with a partner making them (presumably) boyfriend/girlfriend. I see them smoking sometimes. They almost always have piercings or tattoos. Their signs mostly talk of food but some simply say they need a bus fare home or somewhere. Many of them read. If they weren’t on the floor with a cardboard sign, they’d actually look cool and hip.

I trust they are really homeless or in need of money, food, or whatever their sign says. I don’t want to doubt the needs of someone sitting on the cold hard concrete of an, at times, unforgiving city. But the hipster-ness of their look certainly makes me wonder how someone who looks cool can end up like that.

They don’t look crazy. They don’t appear to talk to themselves, shout back at an imaginary enemy, or act strangely in societal terms. They just sit there slumped and quiet. Those with dogs – an increasingly common sight – gently pet them and care for them as any other pet owner would; I even saw one guy holding his pet while the two were sleeping.

So seeing these people (and pets) really tugs at my heart strings. Not being intrusive, they really appear to rely on the kindness of others to get by. And while I’d never give anyone money (I have an irrational fear they’ll go by drugs – including cigarettes – instead of food), I would really like to help them out.

So to all the homeless people out there: if you can’t find a place to stay and feel you must be out on the streets, get a dog or a lover/companion, look like a grungy hipster, write something clever on your cardboard sign, and just sit there. You’re going to attract a lot of sympathy from me and the next time I see you, I’m going to buy you and your dog a meal.

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