By Nicole Kadlec & Marissa Preston
Over the past few weeks the Equality Committee has been visiting the homeless of The Hague, interviewing those who were willing to share their story. The project was carried out in the hope of a better understanding of the situation and of the people we see on the streets daily.
Loneliness was a common theme in the stories of these people, as well as the temptations of drugs and alcohol. One woman in her 50s knew she was HIV positive but does not go to regular check-ups. She grew up in an abusive environment, and now has no family, friends, or even identification.
Another lost everything when her husband passed away, and now sleeps to the heating room of an office building at night to stay warm. Drugs like cocaine and weed are her biggest temptations, and complained about the bureaucracy of the municipality and the waiting procedures.
One man in his early 40s said that after a brain injury at 39, he lost his job, and then all his money due to not having insurance to pay the medical fees. He speaks good English, and still works on and off, explaining that you can simultaneously work and be homeless since his freelance paychecks don’t cover rent. He doesn’t tell his friends about his situation due to the shame.
Another man, of a similar age but appearing to be in his 60s, has been homeless for 15 years. He said he feels like an outsider, and that people who have never experienced homelessness treat the homeless like objects. Below are the reflections of Nicole Kadlec following the project.
Over the years homelessness has evolved from being a national to an international disaster. Every one of us is at risk of experiencing homelessness; no one is safe from falling prey to this tragedy. Among other factors, it is primarily a shortage of affordable housing and insufficient income that causes homelessness.
Homelessness refers to a situation whereby individuals don’t have a permanent residence, yet not all homeless people exist on the streets. When problems within a family or household become insurmountable, people are at risk of becoming homeless.
Some of these issues may include sudden loss of jobs, violence within the family, drugs and substance abuse, mental illness, emotional and even sexual abuse. Irrespective of the many challenges that homeless people go through such as rape, unnecessary arrests, and victimization, they are still humans who society should accept, embrace and try to assist where necessary.
In spite of the challenging situation, homeless people have a deeper side that people rarely point out or even speak about. Many of those we interviewed were positive, intelligent, and hopeful for the future. We should avoid being biased against homeless people, as once you talk to them it becomes clear that they are human beings just like anyone else.
Our slight accomplishments should not allow us to neglect humanity at all costs. Most of the time, society forgets that homeless people are parents, friends, brothers, sister, uncles, and aunts to people. Nobody ever wants to be homeless.
Homelessness is rarely a choice, and hence we should show love to homeless people. Throughout the project, we found that homeless people can be some of the most down to earth people in the world. Some of them have stories that inspire individuals to be grateful for life.
Their lives are adorned with candor and great humility. While many homeless are diminished and belittled every day, crushing their esteem, it should be recognized that they have the potential to become the leaders and entrepreneurs who can move society forward, just like anyone else. The weak, poor, and the homeless deserve nothing short of our humanity, kindness, and care.