Being Proud Despite their Situation

Being homeless generally doesn’t evoke happy thoughts. Many who are homeless fall into patterns of depression and anxiety about their situation and have trouble seeing past their immediate situation. When asked “what are you most proud of?” the interviewees seemed a little shocked. All of them expressed pride in their families, children and grandchildren specifically, and many talked about being proud of getting help and being housed and “that I am still alive.”[1]

 

In light of the barriers and bad circumstances these veterans feel like they have faced, they still have things in their lives that they are proud of and things that are worth living for.

 

Daily Life and Hopes for the Future

Interviewees are currently spending their days doing things they enjoy such as reading and writing. Many are working to find employment if they are not already employed, or plan on spending more time doing volunteer work. They all have set goals to one day own a home of their own and have a lifestyle that they are able to support without assistance. Many of them hope to rebuild past relationships with family or cultivate health romantic relationships in the future.

 

As the author of Happiness relates, “we could not be happy without setting ourselves goals…If our goals are too low, we get bored. If our goals are too high, we get frustrated.”[2] The participants in this project have all set goals that are realistic for their futures and are actively contributing to their future happiness by striving for these goals and moving out of homelessness.

 

As of November 11, 2015, Virginia has functionally eliminated veteran homelessness, being the first state in the country to do so. The functional end of veteran homelessness means that, “veteran homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring in [the] community.”[3] While many veterans are still homeless, and many will experience homelessness in the future, the service community in Virgina, and Richmond in particular has been able to come together to build a system where they “continue to house more veterans each month than the number who enter the homeless services system.”[4]

 

The divide between those who are homeless and those who are not is both a physical division and a social division, as “homelessness is not purely an economic disadvantage but also a stigmatized social identity that is given meaning according to its conceptual distance from the norm,”[5] creating an us vs. them dichotomy and a social separation that is difficult to articulate and overcome. Many turn away and view the homeless as a distinctly different, and inherently lower status of person, forgetting that at the core, we are all just human.

Society doesn’t know how to treat homeless people with dignity. Homeless people, regardless… There’s a level of negativity that makes, that makes society look down on homeless people. Yeah, most of them, majority of them are dirty, they’re not well kept, or well groomed. And whenever you roll up on somebody and they’re not well groomed or they may have an odor, it seems to make people step back. That’s a normal reaction. But if you look behind all of that physical stuff, you still find a human being that has a heart, that bleeds, that cries, that has happy times, that has all the regular emotions that a normal person does.[6]

 

 

 

[1] Nettles, Don. Interviewed by Kelsey Glander. Richmond. Video. March 18, 2016.

[2] Layard, Richard. Happiness: Lessons From a New Science (New York: Penguin Press, 2005), 73.

[3] “Veterans.” Homeward. http://homewardva.org/news/veterans (accessed April 14, 2016)

[4] “Veterans.”

[5] Wasserman, At Home on the Street. 2.

[6] Lewis, Evette. Interviewed by Kelsey Glander. Video. Richmond. March 17, 2016.