“Seeing” Homelessness

Like many individuals in my generation, I start my day by checking what my friends are doing on Facebook. Usually there’s nothing much going on, however, this morning I came across something a little unsettling. An individual I went to grade school with posted a picture of a car that had a back seat full of bags. Her posting this photo was out of disapproval towards two elder gentleman that she believed lived in this car full of bags. Another individual responded to this in a similar fashion, commenting that “you’re bound to see a lot more of that kind of stuff.” At first I was angry at her reaction; how did she know they were homeless? The more I thought about it, and I actually went back and looked at the picture and comments again, I was saddened by her (and others’) reactions. How could they be so disapproving of these two gentlemen? Then I realized that I’m probably coming from a very different perspective than they are. This “friend” and I both grew up in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, a place that is not known to have a homeless population, but in fact does. Since I’ve been working at United Way, I’ve learned a lot about the needs in our community and homelessness is one of the biggest issues. According to Journeys from PADS to HOPE (a United Way Partner Agency that serves those that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless) there are 1,200 homeless people in shelters across the Northwest Suburbs and an additional 400 homeless people living on the streets, in the forest preserves, and yes, in their cars. In addition to working with great agencies, I take a lot of the calls for help that come into our office every day, many for rental or mortgage assistance because they are facing foreclosure or eviction. Homelessness is a real problem in our community, even if it is not visible on a daily basis. United Way understands the immediate crisis needs that affect our communities every day. United Way of Metropolitan Chicago’s 10 year vision — LIVE UNITED 2020 — not only focuses on income, education and health, but continues to support immediate needs of the people in our community. In fact, United Way will answer the immediate crisis needs of 1 million people across the Chicago region every year by providing shelter, food and freedom from violence. What if my “friend” understood the needs in our community? Would she still have been that appalled that these gentlemen were living in their car? Or would she have wanted to reach out to an organization, like United Way, that provides much needed resources to the community to help with some of the needs our neighbors have? Photo Credit: KLW NFC

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