Stigmas of Homelessness: They’re Dangerous
The Danger of Stigma
When asked “What would you say to people who assume every homeless person is dangerous?” In an interview with the Chief of Police for the Longwood Police department, David Dowda, replied, “You have to look at the individual, be cautious about lumping people together under the same generalization, or else you’ll have to apply that concept to everyone.”
The stigma that every person experiencing homelessness is dangerous, is dangerous in itself. That every person experiencing homelessness “must-have” a criminal background, or “must be” a dangerous person, is damaging to how we view families and individuals experiencing homelessness.
Although people experiencing homelessness are often categorized as perpetrators of crime, a study about Exploring the Experiences of Violence Among Individuals Who Are Homeless states that they are more often victims of crime. “The prevalence of violent victimization in the homeless population has been estimated to range from 14% to 21% and approximately one-third report having witnessed a physical attack on another person who was homeless. This rate of violence is highly disparate when compared to the general population in which only 2% report experiencing a violent crime.”
Homelessness increases vulnerability to violence victimization.
Chief of Police for the Longwood Police department, David Dowda, gives insight into how we as a community can work together to break the stigma surrounding people experiencing homelessness. “Volunteering is a great thing for most people to take part in – not only for the benefits for them but to others. Volunteering at a place like The Sharing Center would be a huge benefit. When you interact with people experiencing homelessness, you will see that they’re not all dangerous, or drug addicts, or crazy. But that they’re people who need a hand up, who have a story.”
Overcoming Limited Resources
Limited resources can be a challenge for those facing the burdens of homelessness. The Sharing Center’s Oasis is the only center in Seminole County that people experiencing homelessness can come to as a place of respite and refuge. Families and individuals can receive a warm shower, laundry service, hair cuts, and hot on-the-go meals.
Tyrese, a guest of The Oasis states “Centers like The Oasis, they really help people out. The people that can’t or don’t have the motivation to overcome homelessness- get motivation here. We have a community with people who go through the same thing, share laughs and joys. We relate to one another and help each other with resources.”
The next time you see someone on the side of the road, don’t look at them through the lens of judgment, but instead- lend a helping hand or a listening ear. You never know whose life you can change in a matter of the moment by showing compassion and dignity.