Friendship House believes homelessness occurs when someone is disconnected from their community. This is because, as so many of us have experienced, your home is where your heart is and your heart tends to be embedded in those you love: your community of friends and family. Losing this can feel like you are losing everything.
There is so much pain involved with homelessness. Partly due to the losses one suffers and largely because those experiencing homelessness are treated poorly because of the stigma associated with being “homeless.”
Some perceive homelessness as a choice or one’s own fault. Some believe those who live on the streets are dangerous and cause criminal acts of violence. Many see those experiencing homeless as dirty. These perceptions result in the homeless population seeming invasive, unwelcomed and even an “eye sore.” The separation and stigma of homelessness is worsened by the need for someone else to be on the bottom rung of the ladder. This stigma has propelled classism creating a larger rift in our community in a time when the marginalized need to feel loved more than ever.
Ultimately, these beliefs result in society turning a blind eye to those in need. It can be easier to allow those suffering to continue suffering, especially if the suffering doesn’t affect the person who can offer help. This is seen in how hard it is for a person to get out of a homeless situation. For example, it is very hard to find a job without stable housing. It can be hard to earn a livable wage after being incarcerated. It is hard to save money when living paycheck to paycheck. It is unconscionable how hard society has made it on those who are stigmatized and suffering.
When someone who can offer help faces someone who is suffering, they have a choice: allow them to keep suffering or offer grace?
The Webster dictionary defines grace as “disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.” This seems like the exact response to someone who is suffering, doesn’t it? Then why do we, as a community, insist on making it so hard for someone who is already suffering – whether it be from mental illness or substance abuse, or any other marginalized community? There is too much stigma resulting in not enough resources for those who are on the margins, suffering, and separated from their community. Our community has a choice on how we respond and how we help.
FH believes everyone deserves grace. No matter how many bridges may have been burnt or how many times you have received grace already, we will continue to offer grace. Whether it is the moment you begin a difficult journey or you have been on a difficult journey for years, we will always be your loving, supportive community.
When someone asks for help, at FH we choose grace. What will you choose?
Kim, Executive Director