Some are poignant, some are personal. Some are important, some are silly. For today’s Top Twenty Thursday I share some of the life lessons I learnt during my years living on the street.
Twenty Life Lessons I Learnt Whilst Homeless
20. Discrimination is still prevalent in today’s society.
However accepting our society has become in certain areas, discrimination against the homeless is still rife and we need to do everything we can to stop it. After all, homeless people are just like you; human.
19. No matter how waterproof you think your backpack/jacket/shoes etc. are. They’re not!
Something I learnt the hard way after losing important paperwork, notepads of writing and clothing.
18. When ‘showering’ in a public toilet – always remember to lock the door!
Otherwise you may find yourself inadvertently flashing an unsuspecting jogger at five in the morning.
17. Ducks may look cute – but they’re naughty little tykes.
As proven when one duckling ‘distracted’ me with its cuteness whilst its mother stole my sandwich.
16. Never underestimate the importance of clean socks.
You’ll know what I mean when you try to remove the pair you’ve been wearing for three months straight and they’ve become attached to your skin. Ouchie!
15. Libraries are the earth-bound equivalent of heaven.
Proof, for those who don’t believe me: Power points for recharging; comfy chairs for snoozing; books for personal growth; newspapers for education; free internet for socializing (see lesson 6); hot librarians for fantasizing; warmth for health. Libraries must continue to be supported and funded under all circumstances.
14. Never go to sleep using a backpack containing a Vegemite and cheese sandwich as a pillow.
A slightly odd life lesson, I’ll grant you, but one you should heed unless you want to wake up with a possum sleeping on your head! Note: this is not as fun as it sounds for they can be a bit cranky if woken.
13. Plastic shopping bags are not the pure evil they’re made out to be.
See lesson 19 and make the all too obvious connection.
12. Homeless people really are invisible. They shouldn’t be, but they are.
A lesson I learnt in a rather uncomfortable fashion when, on three separate occasions, three individual couple decided to copulate only meters from where I was all-too-obviously sleeping.
11. Drunken [insert sporting team of choice] fans should be avoided at all costs.
A lesson I learnt the hard way following a physical assault after their team lost a match. So be careful.
10. Always listen to your gut (aka. You’re allowed to say ‘no’)
There were times I went to organisations for help with crisis accommodation and/or housing where they gave me the choice of “it’s either this boarding house in the middle of nowhere populated with drug addicted ex-cons or the streets”. In spite of my gut I felt guilt tripped into taking the boarding house. Another lesson I learnt the hard way.
9. Never eat the soup van sausage rolls. There is a reason why no-else does!
This was learnt after a six-hour vomiting session. Given no-one wanted to eat them, I fear I wasn’t alone.
8. Even though it should be, homelessness isn’t a priority for politicians.
During the 2010 Australian Federal Election there was no mention of homelessness. Why? Because for the only voters who counted, homelessness is something that will never affect them. They obviously haven’t learnt lesson 5 yet.
7. Never be afraid to ask for help.
It’s hard to fight your way out of homelessness by yourself but the humiliation of asking for help can be just as bad. The latter option, however difficult, is always the best avenue to take. You may not believe it, but there are always people out there who care, who will help you find ways you can get back onto your feet.
6. Social networks are vital.
Isolation can be devastating. Few can understand the psychological impact of spending every minute of your life by yourself, nor would I ever recommend it. For a homeless person, social opportunities are few and far between, which leaves social networking sites their only option. If you can forge past the occasional abuse you will find a supportive community that will welcome you with their arms wide open. For any homeless people reading this, may I suggest We Are Visible as a starting point.
5. Never take your life for granted. Ever!
I never expected to become homeless. And I’m willing to bet that you don’t think it’ll ever happen to you either. But let me tell you – all it will take is one or two sudden events and you too could find yourself sleeping in a park with a possum on your head. Unless you learnt from lesson 14, that is.
4. Homeless people are decent, kind and compassionate human beings.
Not the violent, drug abusing, alcoholic psychopaths middle-class liberal commentators would have you believe. From my time on the street the homeless individuals I came across were always helpful, generous people who would go out of their way to assist you. Hell, one even saved my life once!
3. There is always someone worse off than you.
Have you had your daily moan about the cost of your coffee or the fact your train was seven minutes late? Have you taken to Twitter to have a wee vent about how your local bookstore has sold out of Fifty Shade of Grey or your partner farting under the covers again? Let me assure you, your life could be so much worse!
2. Don’t stop believing!
The one thing you never want to lose is hope. So find something – anything – to keep you warm during those long cold winter’s nights. Even if that means gathering together a posse of homeless people to perform your very own Glee style rendition of this classic song!
1. A smile is the greatest gift you can give.
If you take the time out of your life to have a chat and a smile with a homeless person, you’ll not only be making their day a little better, but your own as well.
- Abusing the homeless should never be accepted (myjourneywithdepression.wordpress.com)
- Homeless People Use Facebook Just Like You and Me [Internet] (gizmodo.com)
- How Facebook and Twitter Are Helping the Homeless (theatlanticcities.com)
- 75 percent of homeless youth use social networks (zdnet.com)
- Backpack Envy (padschicago.wordpress.com)
- Could it be a lack of self esteem that prompts her to sit next to a garbage container? Every now and again I remind our guests they are not homeless people, but people who are homeless. An important distinction. Never identify people by their difficulty! (jeremyreynalds.wordpress.com)