Showing your homeless friend you care.

Pretty much the first thing any of my friends told me when the found out I was homeless was to go to the ARCH, austin’s non-profit support for the homeless.

Unfortunately, that place is not only useless, it’s also dangerous.

I’ve been by there.
And as I’ve been told by other homeless, “stay away from there, it’s where the bad crazy people are.”

See, not everyone who’s homeless is evil, crazy, or dangerous. Some are, but not all.
Not all homeless do drugs.

Some of us just don’t fit with established norms. Maybe the daily nightmares keep us constantly so sleep deprived we can’t cope. Or maybe we have sensory disorders and can’t handle all the modern stimuli; maybe we can’t deal with rules made for rules sake or abusive authority.

But, regardless, you don’t want to be around the ones that actually *are* evil, or crazy, or dangerous. You might get arrested with them, just for being in the vicinity, you might get beaten up, again just because you’re in the area. There’s more chances that you’ll have to deal with drug dealers. And having lived in areas where I’ve had to do this, I’d just as soon not have to deal with it now.

Which brings me to my education topic of the day for my friends that have homeless people in their lives, now or in the future.
If you are the type who gets upset when the person you’re trying to help doesn’t take your advice, stop and think about the reasons they may be refusing.
(And if you’re local to that person, maybe take a trip to the facility you’re recommending so highly before you get upset. Would you feel safe there?)

I’ve had one local friend get quite upset when I didn’t go to the ARCH. He was offended by my seeming lack of self-interest in my situation.
I’m not lacking self-interest, quite the contrary. It’s because of my self-interest that I won’t put myself in that place, where I will be harassed, heckled, degraded, and possibly in physical harms way. I also don’t need to be in an area where drug use is so rampant. I’ve never had a problem with drugs but I would love to make my troubles fade as much as the next person so I don’t want to be in a place that makes that route so easy.

This is more difficult when you’re not local to the person you care about because you can’t check out the place yourself.

But look for reviews online, more and more homeless are computer savvy. Look for newspaper articles to see if there’s been trouble there. And if your face homeless person shrugs the suggestion away ask why. Remember that you’re not accusing them of anything when you ask, you just want to know, be aware of the tone of your voice. Most likely you’ll be told that it isn’t safe or it’s too inconvenient (perhaps meaning the people that are supposed to provide specific services aren’t reliable or can’t work with the homeless) or maybe just a shrug. If just a shrug.. Think about the crowds in such a place, the noise, the smell, the “security”, the attitude, the many overwhelming factors. Would the homeless person you know, who is adverse to crowds, hates loud noises, and possibly has issues with blanket authority be able to function in that environment? Probably not, in fact, it might make things much worse for your homeless friend.

There’s a lot to think about when you offer help to someone.

While any sign of caring is appreciated, if you really care, stop, research what you can, listen, and think about what you find.

Leave a comment


  1. Katydid

     /  November 2, 2011

    The city I live in has various services for homeless people, including a Commission on Homelessness. Turns out there are NO HOMELESS PEOPLE on the commission. How good can it be?

    Best wishes,

  2. Katy, I’m guessing not very?? 😦

    How did you find that out btw? I bet it isn’t something they advertise.


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