Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

February – March 2024 : The little things READ ONLINE


Becoming invisible, part II

April 09 2012
The belief that homeless people are all on the streets due for the very same reason is dangerous


(Part I appeared last month.)

The popular belief that the homeless are all one monolithic block, all on the streets due to and for the very same reason, is a dangerous idea.

In the same way that such thinking would be detrimental to the integration and cohesion of any other minority community, accepting that those who live or sleep on the streets have the same needs, problems and background as each other, heavily contributes to the myth and stigma which leads ordinary members of the public to turn away from those who need their assistance the most.

Indeed, the dehumanisation of the homeless is what makes it harder for many of them to find their way towards meeting their personal needs. As a society we need to accept that those who live on the streets are there for a number of reasons and their circumstances, appearance or dwelling do not determine their role in society or their standing in the social spectrum. Whether it’s health or financial situations that have led someone onto the streets; whether it’s escape from a harsher environment or whether they’re there for a standing of political principle, public opinion has to be rewired to realise and reassess prejudices against those who have become invisible to the masses. The idea that individuals sleeping on streets are different to the individuals that sleep in beds, simply for that reason, has to be eliminated.

The people living on pavements are no less human than anyone else. They weren’t born homeless. They are fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. They are black, white and brown; young and old; workers, teachers, writers, nurses, army veterans and pensioners. They are from Britain, from abroad, residents, refugees and immigrants; with families and without.

If anything, the invisible faces behind those newspapers and cardboard bedding and the invisible faces behind those stretched out hands asking for money are probably more human than those faces who express disgust in response and those who look straight on as they walk by.

• What do you think? Join the conversation on Twitter - @thepavementwm