Living on the Streets: What’s It Really Like?
Published Marc 25, 2021
Most of us have probably never imagined ourselves living on the streets. But for about 2% of the world’s population, this is their unfortunate reality.
Whether we admit it or not, homelessness has become very prevalent in the past several years. In big cities like New York and Washington DC, the numbers are especially high. But with shelters almost always filled to capacity, many of the homeless have no choice but to sleep on the cold pavements.
But what is living on the streets really like?
As you may have imagined, it’s not easy. Life on the streets is as complex and varied as anywhere else. But having no place to call home makes it much more challenging. More than just protection from the elements, a home provides comfort and security. With that comes the ability to dream of a better future. For people living on the streets who don’t even know where to get their next meal, thinking of the future is a luxury they can’t afford.
There are a wide range of reasons and situations that force a person to homelessness. But one thing is for sure, most of them didn’t choose that life. They’re mostly just victims of circumstances beyond their control. Sometimes, all they need is someone to empathize with them and a chance to redeem themselves.
To give you a better perspective of what they go through, we’ve gathered details of what living on the streets is really like.
What Do The Homeless Do All Day?
If you found yourself wondering about this, then you’re not the only one. This is a common question about homeless people. There’s a misconception that homeless people just bum around all day spending welfare money.
But nothing could be farther from the truth. Homeless people spend their day just like the rest of us – trying to improve their lot in life.
For many homeless people, the day starts even before the city stirs to life. Waking up from the icy pavements, most of them line up in public washrooms or wherever they can clean themselves. Then they prepare to go to work or look for work.
Yes, contrary to popular belief, homeless people have jobs too. In fact, a survey in California found that about 13% of the homeless population is working full time. They just don’t earn enough to afford rent.
Of course, getting a job or keeping one when you’re homeless can be especially challenging. Social prejudices against homeless people often keep employers from hiring them. Even if they overcome that stigma, applying for a job and showing up in interviews can be difficult when you’re sleeping rough.
Those who can’t get a job are often forced to panhandle or rely on social programs to fill their stomach for the day. Sometimes, they have to walk for miles to find a food bank or a soup kitchen. Remember, they don’t have cars and most likely no money for Uber either. So a trip that usually takes just a few minutes for most of us can take hours of walking for a homeless person.
This is how most homeless people spend their day. But when you’re living on the streets, each day is a fight to survive. So there is no such thing as a “typical” homeless experience.
Where Do Homeless People Sleep?
Not all homeless people sleep on the street. Remember that there are varying degrees of homelessness. Some homeless people move back home with their parents or crash on their friend’s couches. Others stay in garages/sheds, backyard tents, and even parking lots. They may have homes but they’re still technically homeless. When the hospitality wears out, they usually end up on the streets.
Then there’s the second type of homeless – the ones who stay in shelters. Most shelters require some form of rent from their occupants. So most of those staying in shelters either have jobs or are receiving welfare. Shelters also set a maximum occupancy period so they can’t stay in there forever. Though there are many shelters around the country, they’re not enough to house everyone. Most of those who get turned out of shelters have to live in their cars or wherever they can find a safe place to lay their heads in.
The Dangers of Living on the Streets
Every living space has its own share of risks. But when you’re living on the streets, the risks of bodily harm or even death is significantly higher.
Reports of violence against homeless people usually include incidences of:
- being deliberately hit or kicked
- having things thrown at them
- being urinated on
- sexual assault
- verbal abuse
- intimidation and harassment
Aside from these acts of violence, homeless people also have to contend with the ever-present threat of starvation. On particularly harsh winters, the danger of freezing to death is also a grim possibility.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a full time blogger and is devoted to topics about charity, kindness, and Christianity. She is part of Correct Digital, Inc which is paid by private donors to provide website digital marketing services to this non-profit organization.