There wasn’t anything special about this night. It was getting dark — as it always does near the end of the day — and I was sitting with one of our clients. The shelter guests had been checked in and were about their own business watching TV, waiting for dinner, showering, talking…

Then I heard my name. It sounded familiar, though I couldn’t place the voice. A client stepped closer and I recognized her face as she said, “I used to work under you, as a CNA.”

That was a tough moment. I never really expected to see someone I recognized — let alone used to manage in a professional environment — walk up to me as a client in a shelter for homeless individuals. It wasn’t a moment of judgement, it was a moment of stark contrast between the world of delusion and the world of reality.

There are painful and dehumanizing stereotypes around homelessness. Many people never get beyond the word “Bum” and the implications of a bottom-feeding, withering soul; a body passing most days inebriated or in a coma. Yet, here was a living and breathing example that shattered every stereotype about the poor. The reality is that life hit someone I knew — hard — and now she was working her way up.

Some people assume that the homeless are a group of aimless wanderers with no interest or  desire to return to a state of normalcy, that somehow there is a sadistic joy that flourishes under pervasive loneliness, hurt, and fear. Reality proved this wrong again. Within a few short months, I was contacted by this client and once employee. She had received the necessary treatment that allowed her to return to housing and was proudly an employed citizen. She hasn’t been back to a shelter since.

Our words hold too much weight to throw around damaging terms. Our thoughts, when allowed to run without restraint, can quickly develop false concepts around the homeless. We pick up on stereotypes from the media, or from a personal experience that reinforced a pre-existing negative label. Our goal at MACC is to break through these and reveal that we are dealing with people…not “hobos”, not “bums”, not “them”.

This is about “us”. This is about community because it takes everyone linking arms to break through misconceptions and restore human dignity to an outcast and overlooked population. Donating is helpful, volunteering is good, but changing your thoughts and ideas and becoming an advocate for the poor is even better.

Join us.

– A MACC Staff Member

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