When it comes to the topic of homelessness and the impact it has on not only the community but on the people themselves, we tend to hear a lot of opinions from different sources. Opinions from politicians, from the news, and, of course, opinions readily and hastily shared on social media ranging from "go get a job" to "how do we help these people?"
However, it's rare that we actually hear from someone in the homeless community. From someone who is immersed in the life of having to try to survive while living on the streets. But today, in Kalamazoo at least, that's no longer the case.
On Kalamazoo's Reddit, a user by the name of Sharkweek95 posted,
I am a homeless person living here in downtown Kalamazoo: AMA. I figured with all the local attention that "Tent City" is getting that y'all could be unclear on somethings about being homeless. So ask anything you'd like to know! I will answer questions to the best of my ability to do so!
The response was overwhelming. With well over 150 questions and responses, the original poster held nothing back as far as honesty with their experience and their opinions on what causes homelessness and how to help.
You can see all of the questions and answers here, but let's dive into what seem to be the most popular questions raised when the topic of homelessness is brought up. All answers posted below are given by the original poster identified only as Sharkweek95. As a heads up, they are very open about their battle with drug use and mention specific drugs in their answers:
1. What are the biggest obstacles for you in trying to become housed?
This question was answered in two parts -
Drug use and incentivised recidivism. Meth use solves three of the biggest issues with being homeless: What am I going to eat? Where am I going to sleep? And what am I going to do with my day? The problem is that the law of entropy applies with methamphetamine usage. It just degrades your mind exponentially over time, and it also becomes tied into your amygdala's survival response and becomes harder to quit.
Secondly, this living situation makes society at large biased against you, and makes people look at you as someone who doesn't deserve the same niceties afforded to others normally. I.e. the benefit of the doubt, and more importantly employment opportunities.
2. Have you tried to get any jobs?
Many. Over 250 applications filed on my Indeed app, and only recently during the hiring craze have I received many callbacks.
3. What would you say to the people who say "there are enough resources, there's no reason why you should be on the street", or "well shelters have certain rules you have to abide by, beggars can't be choosers"?
They can f**k themselves and see if they'd be saying the same thing after one week out here.
When someone asked them to elaborate they said,
When I say "out here"...I don't truly consider the individuals who utilize the shelters instead of sleeping outside "out here". They have a place to go, a mat, blanket, bathroom and shower afforded to you every night. Y'know, if you follow their rules. It's not that bad, but I refuse to be comfortable with this existence. There's so much more I could be doing, we ALL could be doing, that would make us feel like being alive isn't just pain. Y'all think you're depressed and/or miserable? Try being all that out here bro, then talk to me about the experience. Wake up with some frost on your toes, then talk to me about suffering.
4. What personal items do you find most useful while homeless in town? What items are you lacking?
Blankets blankets blankets. Also backpacks.
They went on to say that six-foot blankets would be best.
5. It seems you are aware that drug use is one of your major setbacks in life. Are you using any services centered around cleaning up your life?
At the moment? Yes I am seeking treatment - and doing so willingly and unprovoked btw - because I feel that I fed into a temporary fix on a prolonged bad time in my life. If I were to get the job tomorrow? Then yeah, f**k ice dude I don't need this s**t. While I have nothing to lose? F**k it, might as well get high and not have to sleep on concrete.
Ice is a common term for methamphetamine.
They went on to say,
I have a sober coach through ISK (Integrated Services of Kalamazoo) that I followed over from InterAct. Hi Tracy, if by some miracle you see this, I love you girl!
6. Did you graduate high school?
Nope. I do have my GED tho. Got it in 2016.
A follow-up question asked: Have you considered going to a community college or getting skilled in a trade like plumbing or electrical?
I'm utilizing the state-sponsored program to attend WMU for my bachelor's next semester. I plan on a Psychology major.
7. What is the best thing average people can do to assist someone who is homeless?
Treat them like a human being. A peer.
This is one person's story, one person's experience with homelessness in Kalamazoo. But, reading through these questions and answers, it's easy to see that the 'solution' to homelessness isn't as simple as someone just getting a job.
The action of being vulnerable and sharing your hardships and struggles for the entire internet to see is not an easy task. But, conversations like this are, in my personal opinion, necessary if we as a society or as a community are going to find real-life solutions for these real-life problems involving people. Human beings. Fellow community members.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, you can see the full thread of questions posted to Sharkweek95 and the answers they give here.
If you, or someone you know, is in need of a homeless shelter (especially as the nights grow colder) you can find links to emergency shelters and other resources here.
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