Don’t “rub it in” that people are homeless.

Two weeks ago, the newsletter was about how to get people to leave your organization at closing time.

Part of my advice was to remind people that “Staff need to get home to their families.”

I received a few emails chastising me for “rubbing it in” that staff have families and homes, while homeless folks do not.

This is similar to another critique I frequently get:

Why do you tell us to ask people “How are you doing today?” or “How is your day going?”

They are HOMELESS, things are obviously not going well.

Asking those questions just points out that things are bad for them.

I vehemently disagree with both of these ideas, for a couple reasons:


In 20+ years of working in a homeless shelter, I have talked to 10,000+ people while they were homeless.

Not a single person EVER expressed any discomfort at being asked how their day was going or me talking about my life.

Heck, people frequently ask me about my family.  Then they often tell me about their family.


This line of thinking reduces people down to one-dimensional victims.

It treats them as if the entirety of their identity is “suffering.”

It strips them of the full breadth of their humanity.

When we treat people who are homeless as a different type of human being, we do them a major disservice. 

Most people (regardless of whether they live in a home or a shelter) want to be treated as human beings:


      • Do you like being asked how your day is going?

    Then ask others, even those who are currently without a home.

    The most common answer you will get is some variation of “Every day I am above ground is a good day.”


        • Do you like talking to people about their lives?

      Then talk about your life and ask about their lives, even if they lack a permanent address.

      Obviously, avoid asking deep personal questions of strangers. That is true of all strangers, though.

      It can be hard to see the humanity behind the homelessness, but…

      …their humanity depends on it…

      …and possibly yours does too!



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