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What Homeless Is Like

Imagine you are waking up in the morning. It's so cold. It snowed overnight and you snuggle up under your covers.  You check your thermostat. 70 degrees. You put your warm slippers on over your socks and grab a cup of coffee.  Then, you get in the refrigerator and prepare your breakfast.  After breakfast, you take a nice hot shower, brush your teeth, put on your deodorant, blowdry your hair, and go through your closet of clothes looking for something warm to wear.

Now, imagine you are homeless.  You wake up in the morning glad you made it through the night. No one attacked you or tried to steal what few belongings you had.  The ground beneath you is cold and hard, although you are grateful you found a blanket in the trash.  It's so cold out, you can see your breath.  Last night, it got down to 20 degrees, and you can barely feel your toes.  You set a goal for the day to make it to the public hospital and see if you have frostbite.  You heard they may give you a sandwich, too.  You are thirsty and hungry, but there is no water nearby.  You see a cup someone left on the side of the curb and check to see if there is anything left.  There is.  It's mostly frozen, but there is enough left you can get something to drink.  You start walking, hoping to find somewhere you can use the bathroom before you soil yourself.  You own a toothbrush, but you ran out of toothpaste.  You haven't had a shower in days, but maybe you can wash your hands and face in a public restroom.  You pick up your bag and put it on your shoulder. It holds everything you own.  You haven't changed your clothes in a week.

During the holiday season, people seem to remember the homeless.  Soup kitchens are full of volunteers, churches donate blankets and coats, and passers-by hand out a few dollars to those "in need."  However, the issues of homelessness go far beyond food, blankets, coats, and a few dollars. The issues for the homeless are about being able to live as others in society live. 

Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay 

According to, one-third of the world's population does not have adequate sanitation and has to defecate in the open.  That issue exists here in the United States for the homeless. Sanitation helps reduce the spread of disease and access to a toilet also helps preserve human dignity. More people in the world have a cell phone than have access to a toilet.

Having healthy fluids to drink is also important.  Homeless individuals may have to scrounge even for something to drink.  According to the World Health Organization, contaminated drinking water leads to illnesses such as diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, and Hepatitis A. Even bottled water may become contaminated with bacteria within 24 hours.  An individual suffering from diarrhea or dysentery who is also dehydrated is at even greater health risk.

The homeless also are more susceptible to more extreme temperatures.  They may suffer from hypothermia, increased risk for heart disesase, colds, pneumonia, and possibly death. The homeless are further at risk for violence and attacks from human and non-human predators.  Each day for a homeless person is at its most basic a day about survival.

There are some who believe that making someone homeless is funny, or tough love, or that they deserve it. No human being deserves to be homeless. Period.

Sources found online at
Drinking Water Week. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found online at
Drinking - Water. World Health Organization, found online at
Dehydration, Mayo Clinic, found online at
Nutritional Needs In Cold and In High-Altitude Environments: Applications for Military Personnel in Field Operations, Physiology of Cold Exposure, found online at
How Does Cold Weather Affect Your Health? Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School, found online at
Hypothermia. Mayo Clinic, found online at