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How do homeless people end up homeless?

"Once, twice, three or four times a Maybe": What are some of the hard and compelling truths about social imbalance in America as it pertains to a four-way minority: Black, female, homeless, and living with major depressive disorder.

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    Jan 26 2013: Renee, not sure how long your conversation has been going. At this point it's going to close in six hours. If you want it to go longer, hit the "edit" button, and you might be able to give it more time.
  • Feb 4 2013: I heard too much of that "You're at fault" and "You chose" and "You decided" crapola.

    I ingested so much of those toxins that I exonerated everyone who had harmed me of their OWN sins, faults, and responsibility for the pain I suffered. I forgave too readily.

    I didn't set boundaries, tis true; but it is also true that I WAS a loving and giving young woman who, regrettably enough, refused to draw "snob lines" between myself and others.

    "Well, you LET them hurt you..." I heard.

    If I LET people hurt me, then JonBenet Ramsey is absolutely at fault for her own murder. End of story.
    Her murderer was never found out because she murdered herself by allowing it to happen.
    Whomever is guilty of it can rest assure that it was certainly NOT their fault; she MADE them treat her that way because she had to audacity to be alive and be herself to the best of her ability; that is when she wasn't being parent-pimped for shows like "Toddlers & Tiaras."

    But it didn't happen that way, did it?

    The truth is that she had no choice over her birth, and she had NO choice over her death; her life taken away by someone who decided that she should die, and who had the power to make it happen.

    Nancy Grace may scream herself into hysterics about that long before she even attempts to understand the atrocity of the murder of 17-year old high school student Trayvon Martin and all those like him who came before and after February, 2012.

    now that I know that I was a better daughter than my parents were parents;
    and now that I know that the two of them, my mother and father, did not deserve to have me for a child;
    and now that I know that the bad things that happened to me were, indeed, everyone's fault BUT mine;
    and now that I know that 'they' (those who did these things to me) are all, most assuredly, guilty AS SIN of the atrocities committed upon my person and personal belongings...

    There is but one thing that remains "un-chucked in this SH*& life": --- .

    Part V.
  • Feb 4 2013: I was always light years ahead of everyone else that I knew.

    Back then, someone may have called me a futurist, or a life-cycle analyst at the very least; maybe even a spiritual medium with the gift of "sight." I told folk what I saw coming in the future, and no one listened to this "dreamer of dreams." Then my insight would surface 20 years later. On time for them, twenty years too late for me.

    I often wondered if Yahweh, the Power that Be in which I chose to believe, was dangling all of the possibilities in front of me like a carrot on a stick just so I could see what everyone but me would have. He would then snatch the carrot away as I watched others live out my own deferred hopes and thwarted dreams.

    Oh yes, well, "Why am I here?" and "Who am I?" is a teenager's plight that usually converges with the 'power of being' some time around the mid-30s.

    Then again, I've seen people who thought they had it all (whatever 'it all' was when it comes to the state of being) who were nothing more than addicts tending to other addicts in housing facilities that encourage and perpetuate addictions and sloth rather than help their dependents to heal.

    I've seen the codependencies I lived with myself acted out in others.

    I even found myself at the receiving end of hatred while attempting to tell another "being" what I learned about going along with the histrionics of those who indulged in these things.

    I was accused of "thinking I'm perfect" or thinking I am "better than everyone else" when others discovered I was nothing like them, yet landed in the same predicament.

    I realized something.

    I'd beaten myself to death for nearly 50 years over messes that were everyone's fault BUT mine. I had been raised in the presence and company of other people's addictions, through no fault of my own, and let their personal issues and entrapments become mine by the human mechanics and vice of loving others more than I did myself.

    Part IV ...
  • Feb 4 2013: Today, I still exist in a vacuum in a state of transient omnipotence...and it's hard for me to get a grip on why I should give a sh&^%.

    Maybe this is as good as it gets.

    There is not much of a point in reaching for relief at this point; it is much too late.

    There is still a minimized anger that follows my 7th or 8th "The End is a New Beginning" episode.

    I truly could not wrap my brain around how anyone could look at a 53-year old female, especially not a thoroughly disenfranchised black woman living in today's USA, and not know that I've lived through every possible 'recovery type' scenario that there is. There is nothing anyone can tell me about "new beginnings" and "letting go" that I don't already know.

    How could anyone look at me and not know that I have "been there, done that, got the t-shirt, some souvenirs, scrapes, bruises, and plenty of scars" to go along with it?
    How could anyone who knows me not know that the only thing that will change things for me at this point is a full-blown, clearly-defined, outrageously obvious all- or- nothing miracle.

    I've been at the mercy of "The End means a New Beginning" for more than 50 years, waiting for the time that the "New Beginning" actually begins.

    If faith is the string on which I am supposed to dangle my hopes and pray for mercy, then I should not be stirred as to why people apply such simple-minded sh&^% to complicated matters -- or am I missing the fact that I'm supposed to reach inside and reach out for an "inner child" who remembers when life was simpler, uncomplicated and easier to imagine better days to come.

    Maybe I over-analyze my own absolutes and my own ability to perceive the future at least 20 years before it arrives. Back in the 1990s, when Al Gore was introducing the Internet to the world as an "everyday way of life," I saw this very day, this hour ... coming. I was excited for the infinite possibilities.

    Before there was an AOL, or even an "LOL," I Was: Me & Compuserve.

    Part III ...
  • Feb 4 2013: How many times have I believed "The End" was a new beginning and "The End" turned out to be just that ... THE END.

    Some would be inclined to say to me, "looks like you survived it just fine." To which I can only answer, "I just LOOK like I survived it."

    The other "The Ends" met me at the Gates of Hell or the Stairway to Heaven with a bruised heart and a screwed over ego. This last "The End" also left me with a bruised body and some physical ailments such as I had never experienced in my "starting all over again x7" lifetime.

    Threats of cancer, multiple tests, ruptured gall bladder, pneumonia x3, anemia and more than 10 transfusions, even about with Stevens Johnson syndrome; bleeding disorders which leave me with combination stomach shots of Lovenox and Coumadin pills to swallow; Norvasc for high blood pressure; plenty of Tylenol for fevers and pain because I am allergic to narcotics of all kinds, the onset of several other food and medical allergies, including the -cillins I used to be able to take for infections; major surgery, minor surgeries x3, puncture wounds in my side and beneath my navel, deep bruises and scars all over my broken body...and a state of homelessness and constant depression to go with it.

    Can't say much about my "willingness to live," I wiggle in and out of that; but then I see a seven-year old with a trach tube in his throat. A mere baby that was diagnosed with cancer at six months of age, and living with a tube that he will/may have to wear for the rest of his life though his cancer has been contained.

    Howdahayell did that happen?

    Lord, I do pray and I choose to believe; but to watch this life, and those who claim to represent YOU in a religious philosophy called "Christianity," it isn't that hard to understand the atheist's impression of this thing.

    Part II ...
  • Feb 4 2013: As of today, I had not written in a journal in quite a few years.

    Every attempt is met with a very defiant "no." I can't even call it writer's block. It's just a plain "no." You really have nothing important to say.

    Of all the accomplishments I made in the 35 years of my working life, I accomplished nothing that would carry me through these fallow days of journalistic demise.

    What some call the prime of life, I call the "latter days."

    I now have a sign. It reads "The End is Just a New Beginning."

    It was a gift from a close friend, someone I could think of naive because she is younger than me. But then, maybe I'm just so old and cynical that the childish things escape me, along with the saying that if you want to rejuvenate and recharge, reach inside and reach out to the "inner child" that got stuffed away somewhere between cynicism and "who gives a flying eff?"

    That makes me wonder about faith, and sometimes about how people can have the kind of faith that makes them seem as children to me.

    That's naive, and silly, I say. But maybe in my unwillingness to be so naive and silly, I am stunting my growth in getting past the age of 16. Sixteen is where I actually left the life I dreamed I would have. Thirty-seven years since I had a life or could actually wish, hope, dream; 37 years since I actually gave a S&^%. About myself or anyone else.

    Faith. The Bible says "Love one another as you love yourself."

    "That's easy," I say. "I don't love me."
    One - One = zero.

    Yet, that "End/Beginning" plaque was my friend's way of engaging me in her particular faith and belief system and I wondered just how cynical more than 50 years taught me to be.
    Her level of faith was nothing like mine.
    I was certainly beyond "the ends" and "new beginnings."

    I was either in a cyclical "holding pattern" or I was already plain Zombie-esque dead as the day I once lived and breathed and moved and had substance and being.

    PART I ...
  • Jan 28 2013: I also noted that it is much easier for people to accept certain things from celebrities ... but not from everyday ordinary people. Note the following from NPR:

    "Running from Crazy": Mariel Hemingway Tackles Family History of Suicide, Mental Illness in New Doc ...
  • Jan 28 2013: That's what I have learned...why they diagnosed me this way is because of the presentation of the above and then some.

    I do, for the most part, what I am told to do; and I stay in prayer and counseling, but I am also well aware that it's not just something you 'shake off."

    Quite a few people end up living like this for the rest of their lives. Some so much so that they do eventually get around to committing suicide. It's increasing with black males, not as common with black females (but not out of the question, either) -- typically, people can scare the heck out of black women by threatening them with "hell in exchange for suicide," but I'm not one to believe that God, mine or anyone else's, will send them to hell for killing themselves.

    I seriously doubt that, simply because according to this tradition of scriptural teaching and ministry, murderers who killed others have been forgiven--starting with Cain--why would God send someone to hell for killing themselves if murderers kill others and get away with it, even in heaven? The Bible doesn't even speak TO suicide, even though it mentions some of the ones in Bible history who have done it.

    The first five commandments reverence our relationship to God, the last five refer to our relationships with other human beings. I suppose someone could leverage "thou shalt not kill" and "love one another even as thyself" as an example, but neither of those things hardcore apply to suicide and the mechanisms that trigger it.

    It doesn't coincide that God would forgive a "true" murderer and not a person who commits suicide who sincerely wants OUT. I think the "hell" part comes in with how you lived your life while you were here.

    We're all going out whether we want to or not, this side or the other. It's just a matter of when and how.
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      Jan 28 2013: Renee, I have no idea what various faiths say about suicide, but I think anyone considering suicide should be talking with real people face to face about these thoughts- people who know you, can look you in the eyes, maybe hold your hand, and give you the time you need.
      • Jan 28 2013: I don't need people who know me, they got their own lives to live and no time for it or I would never have gotten in that situation in the first place. That's really a "revolving door" for me that ends up right back where it was -- in a cyclical revolution signifying nothing. Most black folks don't know about mental illness, don't want to hear about it and will tell you that the simplest solution is to "pop someone upside the head" to bring them back to their senses when they got dead bodies dropping all around them because they aren't paying proper attention.

        They wait too late to wonder why, then dance around subjects of this nature and eventually get around to doing the 1980s Reaganista style "who cares"? Reagan and Guiliani in NYC, as we all remember, were the main instruments involved in ditching hundreds of thousands of "mentally ill" people in the streets back in the 80s, and those people were never cared for or rehoused ... which threw the nation in a pit of darkness from which we may never recover. Still.

        Don't mean to sound harsh, but that's about the size of it.

        I don't even need folks to hold my hand, or feel sorry for me, because that isn't what I'm all about.

        I need to be able to talk about it in a sea of strangers who DON'T know me and yet 'get it' and understand it and are educated about it; not around folks who don't even pay attention to the folks who get elected to office in their own districts in their own states, and don't even know who is on their child's school boards or what they believe in or strive to do for their students, let alone the future as to innovations in education.
  • Jan 28 2013: Who is Lyn? I don't see anyone named Lyn on here.
  • Jan 28 2013: Question: "What is the difference between being "down in the dumps" and having major depression? Is it this easy to "pick yourself up and move on?"

    Lynn A Robinson, who wrote "Divine Intuition: Your Inner Guide to Purpose, Peace, and Prosperity," seems to think it's simply a matter of "picking yourself up and moving on," but what say you about people who have this diagnosis as a matter of psychological emphasis to high-grade depression?
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      • Jan 28 2013: Who is Lyn please?
      • Jan 28 2013: Oh I see what you are looking at...I posted an excerpt from an article written by Lynn Robinson and gave her credit for her writing it.

        The question I posted was "What is the difference between being DOWN IN THE DUMPS and having MAJOR DEPRESSION?", using her excerpt as an example of how some people think it's so easy to just pick yourself up and move on...
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          Jan 28 2013: Hi, Renee. You might want to go back and edit that post with what appears to be an advertisement for Lynn's book, just to avoid confusion.
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      Jan 28 2013: Here is an answer from the Mayo Clinic:

      Clinical depression symptoms may include:
      Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
      Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities
      Significant weight loss or gain
      Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep nearly every day
      Slowed thinking or movement that others can see
      Fatigue or low energy nearly every day
      Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
      Loss of concentration or indecisiveness
      Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

      To meet the criteria for clinical depression (called major depression in the DSM), you must have five or more of the above symptoms over a two-week period. At least one of the symptoms must be either a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure.
  • Jan 27 2013: I had nothing to do but spend hours around other homeless people asking questions about their lives, why and how they became addicts (you would be amazed at how many of them were turned on to addictions by their own PARENTS as children ... or maybe you wouldn't be surprised???), and about how they got where they are. I was even partially chastised for not being a drug addict or an alcoholic, like a "you think you're better than me" when I never said any such thing...I just wanted to know why it was so hard for them not to say NO to drugs.

    Then there were the ones who also were not drug addicts...grandmothers, great aunts, old women alone in the world, a mother and her daughter even, where she had to go to work everyday and get her daughter off to school as if they were still living in the home they lost.

    It was a mess, especially the way the Powers "corral" these people into what I can only call a pig farm. It was actually located in a hidden spot near meat packing facilities and slaughter houses, as well. People would make noises like the animals all night ... as well as other "normal" things like snoring.

    It was a situation meant NOT to accommodate healing, but a deeper faster fall into the "abyss" ... anything from crying in one another's beer and encouraging one another in sad situations in life, but for those who indulged, spending their days and nights trying to get more drugs because there was simply no other way out.

    Folks who had "lived" there if you can call that living, for months and some for more than a year -- half starving or being fed the kinds of foods that are fatty, high salt, no nutrition specs, nothing you can call healthy ---tons of donated junk food, which, as we all know, contributes to further mood swings and inability to think straight.

    I've only been temporarily pulled out myself and continue to hope for a reprieve before I end up back out there again on yet another downward spiral. I know how it all ends anyhow.
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      Jan 27 2013: I am not surprised addictions might come from within the family. I know organizations that collect donated food have begun to encourage donors to donate healthful food of the sort they would feed their own families rather than the less expensive stuff that tends to be donated.

      Your profile indicates, I think, that you are, or have been, clergy and also that you are an activist. As you identify a serious issue as being a stigma surrounding mental illness that prevents families from supporting their mentally ill members, do you see a useful role for clergy in the African-American community in influencing a shift in attitude?
      • Jan 27 2013: No doubt about it. There was another lady minister there with me and she held church services every Sunday at the local library in spite of the fact that she was homeless.

        The clergy is in demand in the African-American community today as it has always been.

        Back in my day, the church was the only place where there was the freedom to control our destinies and lives the way we saw fit, and to this very day, African-American people have not ceased to be highly in tune and in touch with the ministerial alliances that surround them ... all faiths inclusive for the most part and with few exceptions.

        The clergy, most especially those who are in position to do so, are going to have to have a serious talk with families about discarding their loved ones and a serious talk with them about how to deal and not have any one particular family member continuously stressed out about it.

        I mean, we're all "crazy," and as one woman said it "Normal is a cycle on a dishwasher."

        So having a mental illness isn't necessarily "craziness" and that is what a lot of people, not just African Americans, stigmatize the most. They assume people with mental illnesses are "crazy," and that is hardly ever the truth.Clergy, the powerful ones who tend to ignore this issue, need to be the main ones to speak to it, the spiritual aspect of it as well as holding seminars and conferences on how to handle and live with loved ones who need help.

        I remember Dr. John Henrik Clarke (d. 1998) stating how bad things had gotten when the day came that we even had to make up words like "orphanage", "nursing home" and "mental health hospital" ... people didn't just readily discard their relatives. The whole family would come together and protect that person and care for them, or be prepared to deal with the ones who did not need direct hands-on care.

        The clergy plays a highly significant role in the pulpit and in the streets as a role-player in shifting attitudes and attacking these stigmas and stereotypes.
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          Jan 27 2013: In this respect, then, it is useful that you can identify people who can influence large numbers of others to embrace their own rather than discarding them. I wish you great success in this, beginning in your city.
  • Jan 27 2013: Stigma and judgment

    In places like Los Angeles and New York, everyone and their pet has a therapist, yet even among the wealthy and elite, many African Americans continue to hold stigmatizing beliefs about mental illness.

    For example, a qualitative study by Alvidrez et al., (2008) found that among Blacks who were already mental health consumers, over a third felt that mild depression or anxiety would be considered “crazy” in their social circles. Talking about problems with an outsider (i.e., therapist) may be viewed as airing one’s “dirty laundry,” and even more telling is the fact that over a quarter of those consumers felt that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate even among family.

    In a study I recently completed, one African American gentleman noted, “I was just embarrassed. Getting this type of help has, and continues to be, like a sore thumb in the African American community. Unfortunately, I don’t have insurance, so my fear was that if I sought help, it would not be good because I couldn’t afford it.”

    Likewise, African Americans may be resistant to seek treatment because they fear it may reflect badly on their families–an outward admission of the family’s failure to handle problems internally. Something I found in my own studies, is that even among African Americans who suffered greatly from mental disorders, many held negative attitudes about people who obtain mental health care. No matter how impaired they were, they didn’t want to be one of “those people.”

    Many African Americans with mental disorders are unaware that they have a diagnosable illness at all, and are even less aware that effective psychological treatments exist for their specific problem. Because of the taboo surrounding open discussion about mental illness, African Americans often have little knowledge of mental health problems and their treatments.
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      Jan 27 2013: What you describe in the way of stigma and judgment surely represented the views of members of my family in my childhood, preventing people from seeking assistance that might have changed greatly their quality of life and that of those with whom they came in contact. My family were European immigrants rather than African-American.

      Are you studying these mental health issues particularly as they may affect the likelihood to be short-term or long term homeless?
      • Jan 27 2013: What I have discovered about that is that people are quick to judge and want nothing to do with you, even a person you thought was a friend, or a friend you thought was a person.

        You don't have to have any other problems for folks you thought you could depend on to leave you out in the cold.

        The only thing you can do is turn to facility care at a cost to the taxpayers of between $800-$1500 a day, or sleep in the streets. You sleep in the streets, all it does is get worse over the long term.

        There is no short-term homelessness when you are living with something like this and may be or are in need of familial support for the rest of your life. It's not a lot different than the days when they used to lock people away in institutions for a lifetime instead of reintegrating them back into society with the proper help and support systems.

        The main problem with homelessness and mental health issues is that it is always long term; you will very likely remain homeless for the rest of your life, especially when it is so bad that you may never be able to work or socialize again because there is always the risk of a high grade relapse.

        Relapses aren't all about your refusal to recover, they can and often are, caused by other people because of certain "triggers" that do nothing more than remind you of all of the abuse and pain of a lifetime and you are never able to dig from under.

        Yes, it takes a high toll on society in terms of money and time, especially if there are no support systems in place to ease over the hump.

        It's long and drawn out and tedious and we live in a society that has been trained, really, not to care. To lump everyone under the same umbrella, not take individuals into account, and to even accuse them of "faking" to get attention, when the person is actually trying to run away and isolate so they don't have to hear "the noise" any more.

        They are actually dying a slow death inside, like Nick Cage on "Leaving Las Vegas" by way of example. It plain hurts
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          Jan 27 2013: I understand now. Because of your reference to mild depression and anxiety in the context of Alvidrez, I was thinking of that rather than the inability to seek assistance for mental challenges that are often dramatically impairing.

          I remember in the early seventies in California, a change of State policy driven, I think, by economic considerations suddenly turned large numbers of mentally ill people out into the streets with nowhere to go. And there they stayed.

          I would never have thought that relapses are about refusal to recover any more than relapses in the case of cancer are due to a patient's refusal to get well.

          I am impressed given the stigma that you were able to get your subjects to discuss this issue with you for your research.
  • Jan 26 2013: Indeed.

    I try to see the upside of everything, but it isn't that easy any more.

    It's like the picture of the child with the big ol' heart--a heart even bigger than himself--and as he grows and gets older, his little ol' sweet heart becomes smaller and smaller and smaller and suddenly, he's a full grown man with a heart smaller than a small ball of yarn.

    That's about as honest and truthful as it gets.
  • Jan 26 2013: I have found that homeless people lie because they don't have anywhere to lie down.
    People do the best they can to walk this earth with any amount of dignity they are able to muster.
    And most people refuse to see it.
    It isn't that they can't. It isn't that they don't.
    It is that they refuse to, because it takes a lot of dignity to walk that way.
    I had been homeless for many years, and now I haven't lived outside for almost 30 years.
    (I've come close though)
    Thirty years ago, that point represented most of my life.

    Unless a person, willfully sleeps outside on the ground and there is no mental illness involved,
    I simply cannot, nor do not, oops, sorry, I refuse, to see the blame on them.

    Especially since there is no real good reason, whatsoever, for anyone to be homeless, in the world.
    That is a failure of those who have, not those who have not.

    That is withholding love as punishment.
    We're supposed to love.
    Not be - in - love.
    But being love.
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    Jan 26 2013: The main question infers people with home are truthful......which I feel to be false...

    Moreover the question itself is stereotyping a group of human being which is not acceptable to me.

    Will you please help me to understand the link between your main question and explanation below for the same?
    • Jan 26 2013: "Moreover the question itself is stereotyping a group human being which is sad."

      You got it.
  • Jan 26 2013: You know, Kate, I can appreciate your comments and trust me, I've considered that folks are just uncomfortable with the truth.

    They are even uncomfortable about the parts where they may have brought some of their troubles on themselves; but I've also discovered that I beat myself up for years over things that were absolutely someone else's fault.

    Today's teachings appear to make people think that all things are always their choice all of the time and that other people's choices should have no impact on them; but if that were true, JonBenet Ramsey would still be alive.

    The only other choice you may have, in order to keep away from the impact of other people's choices, is to isolate yourself, yet ... they say isolation is the worst thing a person can possibly do when trying to overcome deep depression.

    What is "the" answer ... is there "an" answer?
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      • Jan 26 2013: Oh absolutely agree with you.

        I have learned to change directions, peel off the outer layer of skin, and learned that I should really be picky and choosy, even downright "snobbish" about the kinds of people I am around.

        They call it "setting boundaries." And boy do I have them now.

        I have been praying that TEDx will give me an opportunity to talk about these things so I can, as a woman of color who has experienced these things after having been so successful in life, help myself while helping others.

        But who knows what life will bring next?
  • Jan 26 2013: I understand.

    I've watched so many of them feel like they have to say what they think the "unhomeless" want to hear, so they won't judge them, that they sometimes do lie ... to the good. They aren't trying to make themselves appear as worse people to "outsiders" (or people who have homes to go to every night).

    I ask them "Why do you feel a need to lie?" They say "They're going to think what they want to think anyway, so it really doesn't matter what I say."
  • Jan 26 2013: Certainly. While I was in a situation of homelessness, one thing I noticed that was highly outstanding is that people always want to know "your story," and when you tell them -- even the absolute truth -- they have already prejudged you and assumed that you are lying. The attitude I got, even when asked about it, is that everyone who is homeless has to be either a drug addict, an alcoholic or both; or just an "evil person who deserved it."

    My ex- used to say he always wondered how homeless people ended up in the streets. Now he should know...because of people like him.

    So, the question is asked as a "shocker," for "all or nothing" reasons that have to do with people's assumptions, stereotypes and even stigmatization of homeless people who all get lumped into a hand full of generic categories that don't apply in all situations.

    As a woman of color, I got hit up with situations involving my race, involving being a woman living in the streets and involving my diagnosis of major depressive disorder. There were many assumptions about me that were often taken as "truth" when the truth about me was nowhere close to the lies people tell themselves about people like me.
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      Jan 26 2013: Thank you for the explanation. The reason I was confused is that I worked for a period with homeless young people between the ages of 14 and 22, and I found them very genuine and forthcoming. This included sharing about their substance abuse habits, which in that population were common.

      I have worked with young people enough that I think i would have known if the stories were not true. Many either were from families that were often homeless or had been turned out by families for economic reasons or because of conflicts.

      I have not worked with as many women who have fled abusive situations, but when I have, these also have tended to be very sincere people. Again i believe I could tell.
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    Jan 26 2013: Renee, I need help understanding your question. The question and the elaboration of the question seem to ask two different questions.