ImpacTrip Activist Wall, Petra Gabric advocacy voice
Our society today is facing a lot of issues and problems, some of which we are more aware of than others. There is a certain topic that in my opinion still stays taboo in our society, even though it is a well spread global problem: homelessness. Very often we are inclined to trivialize this social problem reducing it on a simple definition: “homelessness is the state of having no home”, and we don’t dig deeper. This indifferent approach to such a big, global issue is the reason why I choose to talk about it.
Most of us are not directly involved with homeless people and what we get from movies, shows, media and what we see by ourselves, it is just a blurred picture of what it means to live in the streets. Rarely we get the opportunity to understand the reason why one becomes homeless, or the life struggles that pushed a person on the street.
Homelessness is a very complex topic. It is an issue that affects our communities since the civilization exists, so a small article like mine is not enough to even scratch the surface. Despite this, I hope it will be enough to make you think more about this issue and make you take some action.
Starting with statistics, last relevant global data were released by the UN in 2005. Data showed that there were around 100 million homeless people and by 2021 this number would have increased – as we can all witness nowadays.
But why and how we reached these numbers?
The causes of homelessness can vary but the most common are economic challenges, domestic violence, family issues, chronic health conditions, substance abuse, mental illness, PTSD, and lack of affordable housing. Almost everyone knows someone who is touched by these conditions; however, many of us have a natural support system that can help us through difficult times, like our loved ones. But what happens when those support systems fail? We get 100 million people living on the streets. So, for most people homelessness is not just a housing issue, but something that is inextricably linked with complex and chaotic life experiences. And the reason why these numbers are increasing year by year is that our modern society became more materialistic. We are used to judge and be judged by what we own and how we appear. This is why homeless people often try to isolate themself and make themself invisible to the others. And to feel lonely in a world with 7,79 milliard people must be one of the most painful feelings.
As human beings (with emotions and the ability to feel) we should try to raise awareness about this issue and take action. Homelessness isn’t someone else’s issue, it is our issue. It has a ripple effect throughout the community, as it impacts the present as well as the future. Breaking up this cycle of homelessness would be a benefit for all of us as it can happen to any of us in unexpected circumstances. Like someone once said: “Everyone is one serious, prolonged illness away from homelessness.”
There are a lot of things that we as individuals can do to change current situation. Of course, we should start with education. For this reason, I would like to suggest to you to watch the documentary “Us and them”, produced by Kristina Loughton , and to read the book ” Tell them who I am”, written by Elliot Liebow. This way, you can get a real perception of why and how people get to the point where the only valuable option to survive is to go living on the streets. By being informed, you will understand the struggles that homeless people must face every day, and how our society contributes to this social phenomenon – positively or negatively.
Once you get a bigger picture of homelessness, you might not know where or how to start. I am here to share my personal experience, hoping it will inspire you and push you to act. The best you can do is to start volunteering in one of the local NGOs in your city, since they operate to raise money, food, clothing and other necessities for homeless people. You can also be a support in the local soup kitchen! There is a lot of possibilities. These are the places where you can meet the right people and learn from them how you can fight for this social cause.
In Split, we have partners that are actively taking care of homeless people, and every year they held a big fundraising campaign in the city center to which I participate and every year and we raise more and more money. Also, I have been volunteering in the organization known as “Caritas“ Hrvatski Caritas – Caritas Croatia, where people are collecting and donating groceries for individuals in need and living in conditions of social exclusion.
On the other hand, if you are willing to start your own project and mitigate homelessness’ issue, I can share something that I did in my neighborhood as an example. I put a small home-made shelf close to some trash cants, where I am aware people come every day looking for food. Together with other volunteers, we leave fresh groceries or leftovers from our lunch and dinner. My goal was to create a decent and proper place for homeless people to find some food. without having to rummage through garbage cans and get dirty, or worse risk getting injured and contracting infections. Moreover, I wanted this initiative of mine to be an inspiring example for my local community, to push them to act most of the times, people are ready and willing to help, but they don’t take any initiative if they’re alone – they just need to make the first step and prove that it’s doable.
Possibilities are endless! Even small blog articles and social media posts like videos and pictures can be a valid, advocacy action, if you talk properly about this social issue and consequently raise awareness within your own community.
Every small action that we take is a step in the right direction for a better society.
“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.” Meryl Streep