What’s on my mind?

Well, I’ve seen many homeless people in Philly, and I wonder if we actually see them as human beings.


Mr. Bowne

  If you are the president of the United States of America in the middle of a pandemic, you should only be referring to the virus by its medical name, which would be coronavirus or COVID-19- not attaching a minority of people to a virus that has killed thousands. 

Like most South Jersey residents, I go to Philly pretty frequently. It’s the place I venture to when I’m in need of new clothes, want to try a new restaurant, or just want to walk around outside for a bit. It’s only a 20-minute train ride away, and I almost always come back home satisfied.

   Philly is nice to observe on a sunny day in May- when 20-somethings walk briskly down the sidewalk in their work clothes, teenagers roam around taking photos for their Instagram feeds…and homeless people sit on the side of the street. 

   Anyone who has lived near a city has experienced a homeless person asking them for money at least once in their lives. Most people shake their head and walk away. Some don’t even acknowledge them. The kinder ones offer up a dollar or two.

   Why are we so scared of homeless people? Why will we donate to a GoFundMe within seconds, but practically sprint away from someone on the street who needs a meal?

   Maybe it’s the way they’re portrayed in movies, or the age-old advice we’ve heard from our parents since we were old enough to take note of our surroundings: “Don’t give money to homeless people because they’ll use it to buy drugs.”

   I watched a video on YouTube where a homeless woman showed how she does her makeup while living on the streets of Los Angeles. One thing she said in the video really struck a chord with me. “All it takes for you to be homeless is they raise your rent and you lose your job, and you’re homeless the next month. Point blank.”

   I thought of how easily anyone I know could be in that situation, how easily I could be in that situation. It’s not an impossible situation, and if you don’t have family members to financially support you, you’re out of luck.

   Are there people on the streets who do drugs? I’m sure of it. But should we really let a massive generalization determine the deeds we do? 

   When I was in Philly last month, I saw a man offering free haircuts to homeless people. He had a mini outdoor barber shop set up, and there were at least a dozen people in line to get their hair washed and cut. The man cutting the hair was beaming from ear to ear, while the people sitting in the salon chairs spoke to him.

   It was a sight that spoke volumes to me: a man who most likely was not homeless himself was doing something on his own time, for free, for people in need.

   If that man can spend hours in the blazing sun giving free haircuts, why can’t I just give a couple dollars to the sick homeless veteran?

   This was something that had been on my mind for a while. As fate would have it, as I was driving to the Starbucks drive-thru in Voorhees after my first day of school for an overpriced coffee, I drove past a woman and two children standing on the sidewalk. The woman was holding a sign that said: JUST LOST MY JOB NEED MONEY HAVE TWO CHILDREN. The kids were jumping and waving and the mother looked helpless. 

   Since I had already drove past, I planned to pick up my coffee and hand her a few dollars out of my window on the way back home. By the time I had gone through the drive-thru, the woman and her kids were gone. I went home and thought about the experience all day.

   That woman may not be homeless yet, but if more people like me continue to drive past her, her and her kids may be on the street in the near future. They may be on the street right now. I’ll never know because I never stopped. 

   Homelessness seems like something so far from our concerns as high schoolers in an affluent town. However, it’s closer to home than you think. Any one of us could be on the streets one day, and I’m sure we’ll all hope and pray that some kind city-goer will spare a moment to offer money or a meal. Homeless people are just that- people. The only difference is the lack of a roof over their head, which does not define the amount of humanity in their souls.