Years ago, in a transitional period in my life, I resided in a homeless shelter. Both my parents were deceased, and when I got laid off from a job, I wasn’t inclined to burden my family members. It was my choice to move to a homeless shelter while I searched for another place of employment.
One day I was out walking and engaged, in conversation, a woman who was a stranger to me. During the course of our communication, I shared with her that I lived in a homeless shelter. She replied that I didn’t look homeless. I asked her, “What does a homeless person look like?” She registered a look of surprise at my response; she didn’t answer my question. In a friendly manner, I engaged her relative to stereotypical beliefs that many folks have about the homeless.
The place where I lived is the shelter started by Mitch Snyder who Martin Sheen portrayed in a movie. The type of folks who lived there ran the gamut. There were college educated folks in residence; domestic violence victims; folks who lived paycheck to paycheck who encountered illnesses that prevented them from working and thus they couldn’t continue to support themselves; drug addicts, alcoholics, ex-convicts, etc. The reasons for placements in shelters vary, as do the types of people who locate to them.
There’s an assumption with some that homeless folks are jobless. Yes, that’s true for some of them. But there are residents of shelters who do have steady employment but not enough for independent living. Their income isn’t enough for rent, food, utilities, transportation costs and other basics. Included in the steady income group are veterans and folks who get monthly checks from government, but they too don’t receive enough to support independent living.
I learned some of my best life lessons while living in such a state. And I met some people with rich characters who taught me and allowed me to teach them. When it was time for me to continue my journey forward, tears welled in my eyes as I departed the shelter where I’d lived for eight months. There were some rewarding, fun and beneficial aspects of my stay there and a core group of residents that I’d deeply miss, and my sense was that they felt the same way about me.
It’s loving, wise and reasonable to consider our notions and beliefs about appearances. There’s so much more to people than outward appearances and circumstances.
1 Samuel 16:7 – KJV
. . . for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.