In the homeless community there are a plethora of misconceptions that individuals are fighting against before they even say a word. It can be easy for those of “privilege” to forget the humanity that these individuals represent.
“I think people assume that I can’t take care of my kids,” shared Destiny, a current resident at a Path of Life Shelter as she hugged her sleeping three week old newborn to her chest inside her partially zipped hoodie.
Destiny shared that she and her husband were staying at the shelter with her daughters while they waited on paperwork and housing from the city.
“People assume that because I’m young, and in this situation that I’m not able to properly care for and protect my daughters,” said Destiny. “Just because I’m young doesn’t mean I won’t do everything I possibly can for them.”
Destiny did not represent the typical stereotypes many would assume a homeless individual would have.
I posed a question on an Instagram poll requesting individuals to share some of the things they have thought about homeless people in the past or the present. Of the 19 participants, several of the responses were very similar.
This trend of prejudiced ideas towards homeless individuals isn’t new. In articles as far back as April 11,1990 in the Coyote Chronicle, there are articles detailing personal stories of homelessness and the prejudices faced by them.
Where many would be discouraged or upset to be in this situation, Destiny while quiet, shared her hope and her resolve for the future of her family.
“I’m lucky my husband and I are able to sleep here with my daughters, but during the day it can be difficult to find things to do to stay out of the rain we’ve been having,” Destiny shared. “We’ve been doing our best, and I’m reminding myself it’s not forever. We’re just waiting on temporary housing.”
Many family shelters in Riverside operate the same way that Path of Life does, where residents may sleep there but must spend the rest of the day elsewhere. Availability is limited, however, and while there are programs that work with individuals to provide housing, much like at The Grove Community Church, those resources aren’t always available.
“I have dreams,” said Destiny. “One day I want to go to college and take classes,” Destiny shared. “I would love to be an entrepreneur. I’d love to open my own dance studio and teach violin again one day. Right now though in this situation it’s just too hard. The paperwork process is a nightmare and I don’t want to start taking classes, and then potentially have to move from where we’re at now and have to stop again.”
Each individual is different and their personal dynamics are unique. While society seems to go through waves of interest regarding homeless individuals, it does not change the difficulties of their circumstances.
Though some individuals care for the homeless and try to help where they can, they are still mindful in the help provided.
Christopher Eguizabal, lighting director at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside has experienced this kind of wariness regarding homeless individuals.
“Not too long ago a homeless guy walked up asking if he could get some money for some food,” said Eguizabal. “I’ve witnessed multiple homeless people who ask for money go right in and buy a pack of cigarettes. I decided I wasn’t going to do that. I told him, ‘hey, let me fill my car up but in the meantime meet me across the street at the fast food place and I will buy you anything you want.’ He was reluctant but free food is free food, and ended up taking me up on the offer.”
Each circumstance is different, and each presents its own kind of challenge. Randy, a homeless man shared his story, and in his own words explained that he’s “not the typical homeless guy.”
“Most people I know are shocked when they find out I’m homeless,” said Randy. “Other than my clothes looking a bit shabby from time to time, I’m cleaner than what most people assume a homeless guy looks like, and I’m older. You don’t see many guys my age out on the streets.”
I’ve worked primarily in the same job field, and some jobs I’ve stayed longer than others. I get restless and go looking for something new that I haven’t done, or a place I haven’t been. Honestly, though I think it’s about the people.
If I could do it all again I would. Other than the thought that I have currently that is I probably can’t do this forever, I don’t hate being homeless. Randy
Randy shared that he hasn’t suffered and believes that’s a big part of his reasoning. His family and friends are still kind, and keep an eye out for him when he’s between jobs.
I’m sure I don’t have your typical answer, and maybe my answer would change a bit depending on if I was hungry, or unable to access a shower. But I think I’m just viewing this as another adventure. I’m in the middle of an adventure and waiting for the next one.Randy
Councilman Mike Soubirous, a Ward 3 Council member, has been in office since December 2013 and is very vocal about the homeless in Riverside County. He shared some of the images he took around Riverside on March 5th through his Facebook page that feed right into the ideas people have about homeless being dirty and perhaps unsafe.
“What I saw was shocking,” said Soubirous. “Tents, cars with tarps and other make-shift shelters were propped up against private property buildings, fences, on city sidewalks and even extending into the street. As usual, there were many large dogs tied by rope near these tents. As I discretely took these photos from my stopped car, I was yelled at, cursed at and one man ran out into the street and started banging his hands on the hood of my car. As I sped away, the same man and a few others picked up large rocks to throw.”