10 Reasons Homeless People Sleep Out in the Cold – and Die

Reposted from:  http://getprismatic.com/story/1427501316512

You can’t miss them when you walk around a city: shapeless masses pressed up against buildings or into corners. Homeless people sleeping outside, even now when the temperature is cold and dropping. The lucky ones preserve their body heat under a pile of blankets; others make do with cardboard boxes or layers of clothes.

Some die. About 700 a year in the United States. The solution seems obvious: their lives would be saved if they slept in the warmth of a homeless shelter. But there aren’t enough shelter beds to go around, and some of the beds that do exist come with very unappealing strings attached:

1. The “#1 Reason Homeless People Don’t Use Shelters [is the] Lack of Available Beds,” writes formerly homeless Kylyssa Shay. Shelters are over-crowded in many, if not most, cities. People must line up hours before the facility opens to secure a bed for the night, and go through the same process the next day and the next day and the next.

2. Those who hold jobs (and many homeless people do) can’t always be in line at 4:30 in the afternoon, so they cannot get a shelter bed. Those who choose to stand in line may give up on finding employment because of the schedule.

3. As if homelessness didn’t cause enough physical discomfort (hunger, untreated pain from medical conditions, often being dirty, carrying all of one’s belongings), shelters often add a couple, like bed bugs and body lice, which are inevitable when a different homeless person sleeps in a bed each night. Contagious diseases are also common among a population that lacks access to nutritious food and adequate medical care. Shelters don’t have the means to quarantine the ill from the general population, making a night in a shelter a health risk. Hepatitis and tuberculosis are particularly common.

4. Straddling the line between uncomfortable and life-threatening is the lack of shoes that fit. Shoe theft is a common problem for the homeless, and is particularly common in shelters. (Theft generally is not unusual.) Not having shoes, or having only shoes that don’t fit well, can cause wounds that make it challenging or impossible to walk, and there are precious few places in a city where a homeless person can recuperate for a while without having to move along.

5. A dog or cat is often a homeless person’s best friend and only family. For young women on the street alone, a dog can also provide indispensable protection. But shelters for homeless people rarely accept their companion animals. Many people prefer sleeping outdoors to giving up their beloved friends.

6. Some shelters close their doors to people who are under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances. This is an understandable rule that not surprisingly leaves some people who need shelter out on the street.

7. Nevertheless, some shelters are known as operation centers for drug dealers and are therefore considered dangerous. Some homeless people prefer their chances outside.

8. There are few family shelters that accept single fathers with children. Sometimes the solution is for the children to spend the night in the shelter while dad sleeps outside.

9. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people often face discrimination and “physical risk” in homeless shelters. For instance, transgender “women (born with male genitalia but identify and live as women) forced to take shelter with heterosexual men are frequently subjected to verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.” Some shelters simply deny entry to transgender people.

10. Some faith-based homeless shelters require guests to sit through sermons and even personal appeals to convert to their hosts’ religion. Enduring these sometimes derogatory, sometimes coercive tactics day after day is too much for some, especially people with strong religious convictions of their own.

You can do something to help end homelessness. The National Coalition for the Homeless recommends, “Get connected to a coalition. Volunteer at your local, state, or national housing or homeless advocacy coalition, or make a financial contribution to support their work. For the name of the coalition nearest you, see NCH’s Directory of National Housing and Homeless Organizations.”

  1. pearlz says:

    Thanks for sharing this.


  2. At 71 I went back to work for a large health plan that provides health services including mental health to Medi-Cal members in 14 Northern California counties. About 515,000 including a significant homeless population. We recently had a day long training for all our case managers on mental health outreach to the homeless, provided both in clinics and on the streets. The trainer was the head of Project 25 in San Diego. A remarkable program for the very neediest of the addicted homeless. I’m happy that as the mental health clinical director that I can play some small part in this national issue. You’ve played an important role in bringing their voices into our awareness. The theme of our ongoing work emphasizes acceptance of each homeless person exactly how and where they are. There but for the grace of God go I. My novel writing is for fun. My job is for meaning.

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 2 people

  3. GuessCloud says:

    So sad. We have alot of homeless in New York.


  4. God, this is eye-opening, isn’t it? Some pretty simple realities almost always overlooked when people speculate as to why someone is not sheltered in some way. We need to work on getting facts out about circumstances for the walks of life for so many.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. it Is horrible to think that even though governments have the capacity to shelter them, they do nothing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. In India, I don’t even know if there are enough Homeless Shelters. You can’t imagine how people survive in squatter settlements. Even though their economy is going up…so are their numbers.


  7. gillswriting says:

    You open with the statement that “you can’t miss them etc.” But we do, every day, everywhere in the world, so many people walk on by and don’t even see. Great eye opener and keep on opening those eyes. Great job as ever. xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  8. […] Source: 10 Reasons […]


  9. Thank you for this post. It helps me understand.


  10. claire says:

    Thanks for spelling this out. I was watching a documentary of a city that provided actual apartments for their homeless where they could stay long term as an alternative to shelters and it seemed to be working well long term (even financially). It would be wonderful if that could happen more.


  11. Tom Bolton says:

    Sharing some thoughts.


  12. Reblogged this on Maryellen Hess Cameron and commented:
    Every week people come to my agency seeking help. We help them get on waiting lists for shelters and affordable housing. But they can be very hard to track down when something becomes available.

    Many homeless people stay on the move…they walk everywhere, they stay on friends’ sofas when possible or they camp out in different spots. Although most of the folks we encounter have the free cell phone available through the federal government they run out of minutes quickly.

    We encourage people to call us or stop in to see us every day if we are trying to get them into a shelter. It’s the only way we can be sure we stay in contact. Often people disappear and lose their shelter opportunities. We have to start all over when they do come in again. This just amplifies the sense of hopelessness homeless people feel.


  13. thatgirlwiththedarkhair says:

    Thank you for reblogging this piece of reality.


  14. A million Irish people did not die because of a blight on one crop in the potato famine. They died because without the money from the potato crop they could not pay their rent and they were evicted. The Normans brought in the English and Scotch landlords to create a “system” in which the Irish had to pay rent to live in their own country.


  15. […] 10 Reasons Homeless People Sleep Out in the Cold – and Die at Gotta Find a Home – Listen. […]


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