I overheard this on the subway today:
Homeless people smell like urine, are dirty and do not take care of themselves.
– Uneducated person
When I was homeless the most offensive comment ever said to me was:
“wow, you don’t smell like you’re homeless”
It’s a common assumption that homeless people are dirty; people without access to houses probably don’t have access to the showers inside them, right? As it turns out, there are more ways to get clean than to use the shower in your own home.
Remember those homeless shelters that 65 percent of homeless people live in? Most of them have shower facilities available to their residents. Some homeless people get a gym membership, which often gives them 24/7 access to showers, and some gyms such as Planet Fitness offer free food on certain days (all for $10 a month!).
People without these resources may choose to stay clean with a public bathroom sink, or moist towelettes from a gas station.
The fact of the matter is, some homeless people do live on the streets. Some people don’t have jobs. Some people are dirty, or have unkempt hair, or wear clothes with holes in them. Sometimes these are because the person doesn’t have access to them, even though they want them. Sometimes people can’t access them because of physical or mental disabilities. And sometimes the person chooses not to access them.
Now that being said. Some homeless people live in other places such as shelters, cars, subway stations, Penn Station etc. Some homeless people DO have jobs. Other people that ARE NOT homeless are dirty, or have unkempt hair, or wear clothes with holes in them. Remember in early last year a Disney employee, Yeweinishet “Weini” Mesfin? For seven years, Mesfin lived out of her Honda Civic while being a full-time employee.
There are so many articles published that say “telltale signs” are that the way to tell if a person is homeless is their appearance and body odor. This is ludicrous to me.
Here is a quote from a blog I found while researching information for this post:
If you are homeless, smelling of body odor or being visibly dirty is a dead giveaway. People who can’t help being smelly often try to camouflage their odor with things like cologne or bathroom spray. – Soapboxie
That quote is quite offensive to me. I know how it feels when someone assumes this and stares at you like you are less than and they keep a distance from you. It’s painful. Even without words, the staring cuts deeper.
I know several people who are not homeless that DO have body odor issues. I know several people that have worn tattered clothes. I know people that they are without a place to call their own. They couch surf or live in cheap hotels.
Whom are we to judge a person by his or her appearance?