religion_column

Published on Friday, 25 April 2014 22:34 - Written by Rebecca Hoeffner rhoeffner@tylerpaper.com

One of the hardest things about being homeless is the indifference you can often face from people who aren’t. A new campaign by the New York City Rescue Mission addresses that.

It’s a video called “Make Them Visible.” In the video, several members of different families are recruited to dress as a homeless person and to sit on the street. Then, an unsuspecting family member walks by them.

The experiment was to see if anyone would look and notice the homeless person they were walking by was a close relative.

Out of several tries, no one did.

When the director showed participants the video of them walking by their family members, they often got tears in their eyes or turned their face away in shame. But all of us might be guilty of it.

What would it take for us to see the homeless? I wish I knew. I think the majority of us don’t know much about them, and we always fear the unknown. I know anytime I read about issues facing the homeless, I am always stunned by something.

According to a national nonprofit that addresses the homelessness issue, Family Promise, families comprise nearly 40 percent of all who are homeless, and 68 percent of the cities reporting in the 2010 Mayor’s Report, had to turn away homeless families with children because of a lack of available shelter beds.

Many times we think of those with chemical alcohol dependencies as comprising the majority of the homeless population, but “among families who are homeless with children, the majority cited loss of a job as the cause, followed by the lack of affordable housing, poverty, low-paying jobs and domestic violence,” reads Family Promise’s website.

A child is born into poverty every 33 seconds, and 42 percent of homeless children are under the age of 6.

More than 15 percent of Americans live in poverty, including one in five children (22 percent), the highest rate in the industrialized world.

Almost 60 percent of Americans will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between ages 25 and 75.

This one shocked me: There is no city or county anywhere in the United States where a worker making the minimum wage can afford a fair market rate one-bedroom apartment, according to Family Promise’s website.

The homeless are just like us, only maybe they don’t have the safety net of a loving family that we have.

Next time we see someone homeless, let’s at least look at their face — and their humanity.