For the past week, a homeless enumeration has been taking place in Cornwall and the counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
This is the long process of people from the Housing Division of the Social and Housing Services Department surveying how many homeless people live within our community and the life choices that brought them to their state-of-living. Now, you might be thinking that we don’t have a homeless problem in Winchester because the streets and park benches are clearly void of people sleeping on them.
However, there are more layers to homelessness than you might realize.
Now, I want you to close your eyes and picture what a homeless person looks like. I bet you’re thinking of an older person with raggedy clothes, dirt on their face, an unkempt beard, covered in newspapers while they sleep in a cardboard box.
Now, what if I were to tell you that you wouldn’t actually be able to pick a homeless person out of a crowd in Winchester, Chesterville, Finch or Morrisburg because they look just like you and me. Homelessness isn’t just defined by a person living on the streets. A homeless person is someone without a permanent residence; living in shelters, jumping from motel to motel or simply “couch-surfing.”
While the movies can depict homelessness as a joke or throwaway character, we forget that homeless people are just us who drew one too many short straws.
Maybe their debts from post-secondary education along with raising a family got the better of them. Maybe their disability has caused them to stay out of work too long.
We’re too quick to judge people in these conditions. We immediately feel superior to them because we have a higher standard of living.
So, the next time you judge that person sitting on the corner of the street holding a sign asking for help, try asking yourself how you can extend a helping hand.
Although they might not have a home, they should still be considered your neighbour.