Defining Homelessness

This past Thursday was my first senior capstone class of the semester.  We’re going to study homelessness and communication as we work alongside the Upstate Homeless Coalition of South Carolina.  I was given the privilege to meet with a few of my classmates as well as our professor, Dr. David Novak, before Christmas break to discuss ways that our class can help the UHCSC.  A few ideas thrown around included fundraisers, volunteer work, analyzing data about homelessness, and helping out with social media efforts.  I would enjoy working in all of these areas, but volunteer work and helping out with social media efforts peaked my interest the most.

On our first day of class, David discussed the seriousness of the class and provided us with a recent article about the death of an upstate homeless man.  The man was living in a tent on the side of I-85.  The article touched me because the busy interstate is one that I take frequently to get to my warm, safe, healthy home.  Our class also discussed stereotypes and misconceptions that most people have about homeless people.  It was amazing to me how many of my classmates openly shared stereotypes that they’d learned by being part of society.  I usually think of stereotyping as negative, but in this class, I guess open, honest opinions are happily welcomed.  Listening to other’s be so honest about homeless people allowed me to think of one of my true feelings about homeless people.  I am scared.  I know that being scared is judgemental and I hope that this class will help me overcome my fear.

We also discussed the definition of homelessness:

  • Are you homeless if you live in a car?
  • Are you homeless if you live on the side of a road in a tent?
  • Are you homeless if you live in your aunt and uncle’s basement?

I would love to hear how you define homelessness.  I hope to keep you updated on my class’ progress with the UHCSC.  I feel as though it’s going to be a tough, yet very rewarding experience.  I look forward to your comments and suggestions.


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