Looking homelessness in the face

I came across two really moving TED talks this week regarding homelessness. I think these stories are really important to listen to. I do not believe that everyone has to dedicate this much of their lives to assisting homeless people, but I do believe that there’s a lot of simple things that people can do to make a difference in these people’s lives.

If you do not end up watching this video, here is a brief summary: This man begins his TED Talk by discussing statistics regarding homelessness. He talks about how 1 in 45 children experience homelessness in America and that over 3,100 people who are unsheltered were documented in 2014. The speaker then launched into a personal story about how he would pass this bench everyday and how his architecture building was located very close to this bench where a lot of homeless people seemed to spend their time. One day when he exited his office, he saw two full shopping carts with artwork inside and a man sleeping beneath it. He approached this man and said when you get up, you are welcome to come inside and have some tea with me. An hour later, the man shows up to the speaker’s building to have tea. During this time, the man tells the speaker about a children’s book he has been writing and he is very enthusiastic and passionate about it which makes the speaker cry and entices him to invite the man to store his painting in his shed and then eventually invites him to sleep there too. The man opened up more to the speaker and explained that he has been living on the streets for ten years and he hasn’t been able to sell his artwork. This inability motivated the speaker to create a Facebook page for the man’s artwork and he began to gain a pretty good following and people showed interest in purchasing his work. As this progressed, the speaker stumbled upon a comment on a picture of the man that said she recognized him as her father. The speaker shared this news with the man and was able to get him reconnected with his family and they bought him a ticket to fly him home to Pittsburgh. This experience changed the speaker’s perspective on homelessness and refuted the negative stereotype against the homeless. The success of the first Facebook page prompted the speaker to create a second one in which he promoted others to look closer and appreciate the beauty of each individual who lives on the street. He encourages people to recognize that the homeless are people. One of the things that resonated with me the most was the fact that no one chooses to be homeless. After learning about all of these people’s stories and how they end up where they are and how they are feeling, it disgusts me to ever believe that at some point in my life I thought homelessness was simple in that people can just get a job and can just get an apartment: it’s not that easy. Next time you see a homeless person, treat them like a human being.

This second TED Talk was very inspirational and moving because it is very relatable. This woman discusses how she grew up in North Dakota and how she believed that everyone grew up the same way she did but when she was 16 years old, her life changed when she learned that her father was a gambling addict. This led to her mother kicking him out of the house but the speaker always loved him and thought he was super kind and sweet but just rough around the edges. In order to alleviate the negative energy in her life, she turned to running as an outlet. She started running marathons and running became a routine part of her life. She graduated from college early, got her masters, and got a great job. Running from her home everyday, she would pass a homeless shelter and never really cared about the people within it despite the fact that she ran past it hundreds of times. Eventually the men sitting outside of the facility started to wave to her and talk to her and this was easy for the speaker to reciprocate because the men reminded her of her father. One day, she came to the realization that every time she’s running past them and not doing anything to help them, she’s leaving them behind on that street corner. She came up with the idea of starting a running club for the homeless and this idea was met with a lot of doubt and disinterest from the media and even the homeless shelter coordinator but soon enough, the speaker received an email with the names of 9 guys and their shoe size who were interested in joining the running club that the speaker would organize all by herself. The speaker was really excited and had them sign a contract that stated that they would attend every practice Monday, Wednesday, Friday at a given time and that she expected them to be there every time, on time. She intentionally laid out the same expectations for them as she would for herself and she just realized that they want you see something different in them and they wanted someone to challenge them and not allow them to make any excuses. A lot of people believe that the homeless don’t work hard or run or possess a desire to better their lives or that they’re lazy but that is not the case. New reports did coverage on this group because it was so hard for them to believe that homeless people would be interested in a running group. When the men were asked why they wanted to be in this group, their response was just like everyone else’s in that they wanted to try something new or they wanted to meet new people or stay healthy. The speaker pointed out that we all want the same thing and she started this notion that maybe changing the way homeless people view themselves, could potentially change the direction of their lives as well. The speaker dedicates her life to this mission and believes it is her calling to help these people and I think that that is beautiful and I am so glad that she is out there helping people.