Homelessness not an issue with a definitive ‘type’

By Dan Luner
November 5, 2014

Standing up after falling down is the first key to success.  (Dan Luner/Web Editor)
Standing up after falling down is the first key to success. (Dan Luner/Web Editor)

With the holiday season approaching, people are more inclined to donate to charities supporting the homeless, but is your image of someone who is homeless entirely correct?

Standing up after falling down is the first key to success.  (Dan Luner/Web Editor)
Standing up after falling down is the first key to success. (Dan Luner/Web Editor)

For a lot of people, when the word homeless is heard, they typically think of an older man asking for money on the street.  But for me, that image is not entirely correct.

When it comes to getting knocked down by homelessness, the first step to success is to get back up.

Sure, there are plenty of homeless men out on the streets, but when I hear the word homeless, I first think of the local youth who are without a home.

Last semester, I had the opportunity to take a class that worked with foster youth in Philadelphia. Now I know what you’re thinking – fostered and homeless are two completely different things.  But surprisingly, the two are correlated.

A lot of the youth that we worked with were formerly homeless due to cracks in the foster care system.

Many of them chose the streets versus an unhealthy foster home.

At first, hearing these stories made me upset, but then I reflected and turned my feelings into advocacy.

Throughout the class, we worked with various organizations in Philadelphia including Project Home, Our Brothers Place, and YSI Philly.  My final project for the class consisted of a photo essay that attempted to break down the stereotypes of foster care.

On the other side, I can also think of why people associate homelessness with older men.

Last December, my family received word that my uncle had been taken to a local hospital after living on the street for quite some time.

That’s when my outlook on homelessness really changed.

Looking back on it, I’m not sure what it was that got to me.

It was a combination of factors: the fact that it had happened within my own family, the fact that nobody in my family wanted to help or just the time of year that it happened.

Speeding up to present day, while currently living in assisted living, my immediate family as well as my aunt’s have been helping to give him a break every weekend from the white walls and drudging activity rooms.

All of us traveling to Linvilla Orchards, celebrating the Fourth of July together or even just having Sunday dinner with each other has helped bring us a lot closer.

At first, I was kind of reserved in chatting with my uncle  because I had not seen him since I was a kid. After a while, we’ve come to discuss politics, current events and the latest in Philly sports.

In actuality, my uncle just hit a rough patch in the road and my family is here to get him back to smooth sailing.

It hasn’t been the calmest of rides, but we’ve all learned from the experience and are thankful that nothing worse came with the unexpected news.

So what point am I trying to make?

Homelessness has no definitive race, gender, sexual orientation or any other characteristic.

It can happen to anybody.

Homelessness is just a matter of a person catching some tough luck.  Time heals everything.


Dan Luner

Dan Luner spent two years working on The Loquitur from 2013-15. During his time, Dan served as a Staff Photographer, Photo Editor and Web Editor. Find out what he’s up to on Twitter @dluner13 or on his website at www.danluner.com.

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