This is the response I gave according to a writing and question query and forum. The first person in the first paragraph is Ducan. He is 22. I commented below his story. This is his story…
In high school, I was the class nerd. I had a 4.0, very rarely missed school, and was generally regarded as likely to get somewhere in life. I was in the high school band, drama club, FCCLA, Future Problem Solvers, and in my Junior year served as class representative on the Student Council.
I came from a relatively poor, dysfunction-ally strict and very religious family. My grandfather was head of the local church. He, and my immediate family, are of a sect of Christianity that demands absolute adherence to its doctrine and the shunning of anyone who does not comply.
I am gay.
After this was found out, I spent over a year being kept inside, told and reminded every day that I was “evil” and “not my son anymore” and “unable to be trusted to have any moral compass whatsoever.”
I dropped out of the online school I had been put into for that year, to get a job.
I did, and on my 18th birthday was wordlessly sent away, after having spent the previous evening saying my final goodbyes to my brother and sister, who I would no longer be able to have contact with. I have not heard from them since.
I stayed in the same town for a while, in a perpetual state of shock and grief that was only marginally improved when I moved to another state.
But I still had no will to live, and very swiftly this led to having no means to live, either.
Soon, winter arrived, and one frigid night with temperatures well below zero, I faced a choice: freeze to death, alone and unremembered, or take methamphetamine and stave off the hypothermia.
Meth is one of the most addicting drugs there are.
After six months of drug use, I hitchhiked to another city and checked into a mental hospital.
I spent a year on anti-psychotics, recuperating as best I could while staying at a Gospel Mission of all places. But after a year of people once again trying to indoctrinate the soul out of me, I ironically managed to find it, along with my will to live.
I am attending college for a Psychology degree now. I have a 3.8 GPA at the moment.
I’ve also started a part-time job, as a cashier at a supermarket.
I’m still staying at a shelter for homeless youth; that hasn’t changed yet. I have no credit history, no rental history, and I don’t make 2x the rent or have a cosigner, so getting into an apartment in this city is virtually impossible, and being a student makes me ineligible for most federally funded forms of housing assistance.
There are some promising leads with a local county program though, at long last, so I won’t be homeless much longer.
But I would like to conclude by saying that the next time you see a homeless person on the streets and feel anger or disgust or whatever negative emotion causes your lack of sympathy, I want you to remember me, and imagine that person as they would have been as a teenager, studying in school, hanging out with friends, all the things you did as a teen. And then, I want you to think of that person’s future as well: what would they look like, cleaned up and studying in college or working at the same job you work at?
And remember, with respect and some assistance, that teenager could become that college student and/or coworker.
With respect and some assistance, that homeless person could become that coworker. The first step is to stop assuming it is their fault. It really isn’t. Even the 20% or so of homeless people who do end up homeless because of poor life choices usually made those choices under duress.
And again, with respect and some assistance, their lives could be turned around. Whether or not you are in any way interested in helping with the assistance end of that, you can (and should) still show respect.
Treat people equally regardless of their housing status.