Saturday, March 5, 2016

Why do they refuse shelter?

Seattle reports that 60% of people in “unauthorized homeless camps” refuse shelter. A question many people ask is this: 

“Why don’t they go into shelter? Are they so addicted to drugs they’d rather have the drugs than sleep indoors?

I think that’s a good pair of questions, and they deserve a better answer than most are giving. The City of Seattle department heads, for example, don’t report why shelter is refused. They don't want to admit that their shelter system (or non-system) is inadequate for the needs of the homeless.

Let me ask a different set of questions, though, that may enlighten you as to why some homeless people refuse shelter:


If you were homeless, and the dog who’s been with you for 13 years was homeless with you, and you were offered shelter but the shelter prohibits pets, would you go into the shelter and abandon your best friend, your dog?

If you and your wife were homeless, and the only shelter with beds available was for men only, would you go to the shelter and leave her outside to fend for herself?

If you were homeless, and you had PTSD that was triggered by being around lots of people (shelters usually have lots of people), and you felt that you’d probably have a violent episode if you went to the shelter, would you go into the shelter knowing you were going to hurt people?

If you were homeless, and you’d been in every shelter in the city, and gotten bedbugs at all of them, would you go back to any of them, knowing you’d be bitten again?
"Prohibited" Medications

If you were homeless, suffering from intractable pain for which you needed opiates or marijuana, and were prohibited from using those medications in the shelter, would you go, knowing you wouldn’t be able to sleep without your medication?

If you were lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and the shelters offered had treated you badly because of your gender preferences, would you return to those shelters to be mistreated and possibly abused?

If you were homeless with your children, successfully caring for them by working like mad, and to go into shelter you had to give them up, would you go into shelter and let your children fend for themselves in another one?
Compassion for others

If you were homeless, and if there were only two beds available, and others nearby on the street needed the beds worse than you, would you go?

I wouldn’t. Not in any of those situations.
Many homeless people I know wouldn't either.
Would you?