No Place Like Home
Homeless population faces disdain,
misunderstanding instead of assistance

The recent fire that swept through Dorm 9 should remind students how easy it is to become homeless.

The homeless population is often held in disdain by those more fortunate. Many perceive homeless individuals as lazy people who choose not to work and to live on the streets. The reality is different and much sadder.

Although it may be an exaggeration to say everyone is "one paycheck away from being homeless," a string of poor luck can put anyone on the streets.

Aside from the somber reminder provided by the recent residence hall fire, recent news from Nicaragua and Honduras describes thousands of people whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Mitch. Closer to home, recent floods washed away many central Texas homes.

Other homeless may have lost their savings paying for medical bills that followed a serious illness or may be coping with mental illness or chemical addictions. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports 50 percent of women and children on the street are fleeing domestic abuse.

Any number of tragedies can lead to homelessness, and once someone has lost their home, it can be very difficult to climb back off the streets.

By the time someone has lost their home, they are usually without transportation as well. With no way to get around, keeping a job can be tough. Resumes without addresses or phone numbers look at least suspicious.

Homelessness can become a downward spiral offering no hope of escape.

There are, however, many programs designed to aid the homeless. These organizations deserve the attention -- if not the support -- of the entire community.

Groups such as Habitat for Humanity provide materials and volunteer labor for building or repairing houses or homeless shelters. Food banks and homeless shelters collect food and clothing throughout the year for those in need.

As the holiday season approaches, there are more opportunities to help the homeless. Shelters will see a high demand for blankets and warm clothing. Locally, Twin City Mission is already making preparations to provide a Thanksgiving meal to the area's needy.

The opportunities are great, but so are the needs.

Instead of flippant attitudes, the homeless population requires serious help. Instead of merely offering disdain, it is time for Americans to begin offering substantial help.