When you think of the homeless, what comes to mind? Do you picture a poorly dressed, unshaven man standing on the corner holding a sign that reads, “Hungry – Please Help,” and gripping a plastic cup containing donated dollars and coins? Do you picture a woman lurking in a dark alley next to a dumpster in search of food when the sun goes down? Or do you think of average people, like you and me?
There are several misconceptions and stereotypes about homeless people that are perpetuated by the media. The types of people I’ve described above are very likely to be seen in movies. Most times, homeless people are depicted as old, dirty, scraggly, and drunk. In real life, that is often not the case. In the movie, “Hancock,” Will Smith plays a homeless superhero. The moviemakers created a character that is dirty and rude. Movies like this tend to keep alive perceptions about homeless people, but the reality can be quite different.
At Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), people of all backgrounds come through our doors due to a variety of circumstances. Many are not at all like what we see in the movies and on TV. More and more, we are seeing a new class of homeless that I call the “working homeless.” They have jobs and don’t stand on the corners begging for food or digging through trash cans. They have hit unfortunate bumps in the road that forced them to seek shelter, food and other assistance. We give them a safe place to sleep and a warm meal and in many cases, they return to work the next day. Others are sidelined by job layoffs or medical conditions. Watch this story about two men who came to DRMM for help: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1294260/the_new_face_of_the_homeless/.
So, as you can see, not all homeless people resemble the homeless characters often portrayed on TV. Sometimes, just an unfortunate and untimely situation can lead to a need for a helping hand. And that can happen to anybody.