MYTH 1: How come homeless people don’t just go and get a job?

homeless wall street

Over the years, we’ve heard so many assumptions and stereotypes of the homeless that we can’t even count them on one hand anymore. One of the most reoccurring ones being that the homeless are simply too lazy to work. Many people with comfortable shelter over their heads always seem to find the time to question, “How come homeless people don’t just get a job?” In saying this, they don’t ever wonder if there are actually jobs readily available, or if any barriers persist, such as being able to work without a proper home or address.

Actually, one third to one half of the homeless population are employed, with the employment rate holding around 44%- a statistic that may surprise many of you. This might raise questions as to why these people don’t have proper housing as they must earn some sort of money to be able to do so, right? Most of this population are working minimum wage jobs, ones that don’t actually provide enough money to pay for the basic living expenses in many parts of Australia. According to Janda (2015), our country still tops Deutsche Bank’s global list of expensive countries chart as the world’s most expensive country to live in. On top of this, many of the working homeless are underemployed, meaning that they don’t get enough hours to support themselves, or if they did have a home before, are lacking significantly in the ability to pay the bills. The average rent for houses increased by 75.8% between 2002 and 2012 (National Shelter, 2014), and between 2009-2010, it was found that there was a shortage of 539,000 private rental dwellings that were both affordable and available for renters with gross incomes at or below the bottom 40% of income distribution. In saying this, many people who work for low wages find themselves without a home when the company that they work for cutback their hours or staff. In such a world, there are many working people living around us in cars, shelters, or simply on the streets.

But wait, so why don’t they just get multiple jobs to get more money so that proper shelter is possible? It’s not really that simple. Getting enough hours at multiple jobs can be extremely difficult- employers have to be happy to make a schedule that accommodates the time schedule of the employee’s other jobs. Coming from personal experience, even working for jobs that pay much higher than minimum wage, I’ve certainly had difficulty maintaining multiple jobs at the same time due to conflicting schedules.

Although jobs provide money, money alone in many instances is not enough to rent an apartment. What?!… You might ask. It’s true, to get accepted as a tenant of majority of apartment complexes, one must have a stable credit history and a job that pays triple the monthly rent. Let’s put this into perspective- if a room in an apartment or house only costs $650 a month, those who rent it must earn at least $1950 to cover the costs. So although a homeless person may earn at least $650 a month, most apartment complexes won’t rent to him if he makes not much more than this.

As mentioned before, the lack of an address is an issue. Employers are put off by irregular postal addresses as they can’t properly put them on postal addresses. On top of this, many homeless people don’t own actual phones, so communication between the employer and employee will be difficult, and contacting them for interviews would be hard.

Many homeless people also don’t have cars- which makes it difficult in commuting to and from jobs. Samuel Meixueiro, a homeless man living in a church in Kansas had been walking on foot for five to six hours each way everyday to work. “I’m not a vagrant. I have a job. I’m doing the best I can”, Meixuerio said. A police officer who heard his story immediately went out and bought a bicycle for Meixueiro to help him on his journey.

Samuel Meixueiro getting his new bike
Samuel Meixueiro

Before you judge a book by its cover, please take some time to always consider the multiple layers behind it. Homeless people may look a certain way, but many of them are much more hardworking than some of us are. Like this police officer, let’s put their needs over our own.

Read more about Samuel here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3252610/Kind-hearted-cop-gives-bike-homeless-man-learning-walk-FIVE-HOURS-way-work.html

SOURCES:

Janda, M. (2015). Cost of living: Australia tops Deutsche Bank’s global list of expensive countries. [online] ABC News. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-17/australia-tops-the-global-charts-for-cost-of-living/6400358 [Accessed 19 Oct. 2015].

National Shelter, (2015). Housing Australia factsheet. [online] WA: Shelter WA, pp.2-12. Available at: http://www.shelternsw.org.au/publications-new/factsheets-new/226-housing-australia-factsheet/file [Accessed 22 Aug. 2015].

NFL stars spend a day in the life of a homeless person… and are shocked at what they find

In recent times, it’s hard to ignore the soaring amount of homeless people living on the streets. “Will they be cold out here? What happens to them if they don’t get enough money to buy food for the day? Where are there families?” are just some of the many thoughts that constantly run through our heads when seeing them. Whilst it’s impossible to stop and talk to every single homeless person on every single street, how you react to even one of them speaks a great deal more. Whilst it’s great to simply tell you what they deal with on a daily basis, it’s even better to show you.

Chris Long
Chris Long

Chris Long and William Hayes, two players from the NFL’s St Louis Rams decided to see for themselves the hardships that the homeless constantly suffer from. These two men, who usually live the opposite of life on the streets and are worth millions, put themselves in homeless shoes for a couple of days with only $8 between them, where they panhandled, slept outside, and begged for money.

William Hayes
William Hayes

During this time, they were questioned by police repeatedly just for walking past looking homeless, asked to leave their makeshift home for the night due to trespassing, and stared down by many who didn’t think twice about it. They even met Marty, a chronically homeless man that has made his home in an empty building in St. Louis, who used to own a wrecking company became homeless due to a bitter divorce and DWI’s. Upon meeting him and hearing his story, both players immediately wanted to help out, and were able to put him and another into temporary housing, helping them support them for the first two months.

With only those $8 between them two, begging for money for dinner became a must. Chris managed to get $5 from a generous driver, which meant that the two could now go and buy a burger each from the fast food store, instead of going to the soup kitchen for a small free meal, and it was then that they both realized how much such a small amount of money actually meant to the homeless. In many cases in everyday life, many people simply use spare change or spare silver coins to drop into people’s hats- think about how big of a smile you can put on their faces if you give more! After all, they’re much more in need than we are.

This experience led to many realizations, firstly by Chris, that “the causes of homelessness are so multiple and layered”. How we treat others is important, as none of us have any idea what they’re really going through.

“Now when I see a homeless person, I see lives on detour. Mothers and fathers struggling to be reunited with their children, faces that have been deprived of sleep and shelter. Individuals living in fear and loneliness. Human beings looking to reclaim their dignity… I just can’t look away anymore”.- Chris Long.

We at You Over Me feel greatly inspired by this video, and would like it to give some insight into the hard lives of the homeless. When we’re sleeping warm and comfily in our beds in Winter, many of them are constantly being told to move along at night or don’t even have the warm protection required. Imagine being looked down upon every time you walk the streets! Let’s bind together and realize that we are all the same, and they deserve the help that we are able to give.

Video source credit: Tony Bologne II 

Written by JC

Interview with: Joe

'Joe'
‘Joe’

Here at You Over Me, we see the power of engaging with others. So we took some time yesterday to go talk to someone special to find out his story and the reason why he is where he is today. We met up with ‘Joe’ (he preferred not to be pictured), a 39 year old homeless man that is usually situated in Newtown, and I drive past him everyday that I go to work. He always has all of his possessions packed into three or four bags next to him. He’s certainly not your average joe (pun intended), and showed me that there is definitely always more the eye. 

Q1: How did you come to live here?

I used to live in a little house with my wife at the time, and owned my own business (he described it as a paper printing company, similar to Kinko’s). It was destroyed by the downturn in the economy and the Internet and personal computers coming in- not many people needed to come in and print documents anymore as they had their own printers at home. It was so sad, I’d owned the company for over 10 years and had built so many relationships from it. After that, my wife and I started to grow apart and eventually she wanted a divorce, which because of a prenup that we signed before, I had to give her most of my money on top of expensive divorce fees.  I spiralled into depression and drinking. I’ve been homeless for about two years now.

Q2: What do you do everyday? Do you have job?

Contrary to popular belief, some of us work bloody hard everyday. Although I no longer have a home, everyday I’m trying to pick myself up and save up for something small. I wasn’t always like this (homeless), and I don’t believe I always will be. I work as a cleaner in the city, and so every morning I wake up at about 6am and go to the gym on the corner where they let me use the showers and get ready for work. Real nice of them. Rand, the owner he’s a good bloke, always helps me out when I’m in need. I work damn hard and haven’t called in sick even for one day. But the rental and housing rates are just too high, I can’t afford it at the moment and haven’t been able to get too many shifts.

Q3What’s the hardest part of being homeless?

Everyday is a struggle. Finding something to eat that is substantial, finding shelter when the shelter homes are full. The other day, I went into Maccas to get something to eat, and it was humiliating. Everyone was looking down at me because of the way that I was dressed. I used to be like everyone else, but it sometimes seems like we’re a completely different race or group from others. I didn’t get any shifts the week before as the company that I work as a cleaner closed for a week and didn’t need me, so I didn’t have much money for food. I wanted to get a burger but I only had a few dollars in my pocket, and I was missing 50 cents. So I couldn’t get the burger as I didn’t have 50 cents. It’s also hard because although I don’t have an alcohol problem anymore, sometimes when it’s freezing out here and all I have is one thin blanket, sometimes not even, I’m going to go to the liquor store and buy a drink when it’s that cold to warm me up a bit.

Joe, like many others, are not simply homeless because they choose to be. Many hardships and personal traumas have led to such situations, and many of them are working hard to change that around. We hope that this interview has helped bust the myth that homeless people are lazy and don’t actually have jobs. Clearly, that’s not the case. Stay tuned for more interviews!

Written by JC

Meet the Melbourne man placing the needs of the homeless over his own

Nasir Sobhani
Nasir Sobhani

Less than five years ago, Nasir Sobhani depended on any type of drug that he could come by, leading to a downward spiral that nearly ruined his life.

Now a changed man, Nasir has been sober for a few years and works as a barber, taking two days off a week to travel around Melbourne to give haircuts to the homeless for free.

“A homeless person doesn’t get the respect and attention needed”, Nasir says. “So letting them know that they are worthy of human interaction is actually the main purpose here”.

homeless 2
Nasir’s first client

His first patron was a heroin addict who wasn’t jobless (as everyone would assume), but washed the windows everyday for the barber shop where Mr Sobhani worked at.

“I asked him to let me cut his hair, so we sat down together and we shared out stories about our past… After I was done… his mum even came in and was taking photos and was in tears”.

Whilst talking to Nasir, he made sure to let us know that the connections created with these homeless people were held in high regard, and that the difficult stories that were shared from them only made him want to help them more.

Let’s encourage people to be more like Nasir- let’s place the needs of the homeless over ours #youoverme in order to pave the way for a better world.

You can follow his journey here:

https://instagram.com/thestreetsbarber/?hl=en

http://www.thestreetsbarber.com/

Written by JC

But first, let us share some details

#YOUOVERME
#YOUOVERME

Here at You Over Me, we’re encouraging you to place the needs of the homeless over your own, in taking part in random acts of kindness shared through the tag, ‘#YOUOVERME’ – such as giving them blankets or sandwiches. We invite you to surpass the myths that surround the homeless in the first place, being that homeless people are too lazy to seek employment, and that secondly they simply choose to be so.

Myths are myths for a reason- they’re simply not entirely true!

Embarking on this journey with You Over Me will allow you to gain a glimpse into the life of a homeless person, which may be entirely different to what you have previously expected.

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/123youoverme

And give us a thumbs up on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/123youoverme

To continue this journey with us. Let’s bound together to put the needs of the homeless over our own. #YOUOVERME

Written by JC