Finding Our Way Home

Imagine one day you find yourself without a home. “Faces of Homelessness” – a series of stories on the local New Hampshire news station – discusses just this. Through brief stories, the lives of people finding themselves unhomed are revealed. The teenager thrown out of his house after bad behavior at school. A husband unable to afford the rent after the death of his wife. A victim of domestic violence, escaping the nightmare of a house where her life was in danger. Veterans, LGBTQ youth, those suffering from addiction. Perhaps with different life choices, or a twist of fate, any of us might find ourselves wondering where we might sleep one night, as the world closes in on us.

Do we see these people as we walk by on a city street, through a park? Do we look down on them or look away?

Decades ago, as a young teenager, walking through the streets of Boston with my friends, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and looked into the eyes of my brilliant, talented older brother. The addiction that had landed him in prison now lead him to sleeping on a bench in the heart of the city. That moment created the lens through which I viewed the unhoused. These people were someone’s mother, father, friend, child, brother. Each had a story as important and poignant as any of ours.

Years later, married and with a young child in tow, I offered some money to a young veteran sitting on the sidewalk in that same city. His response? “No, mam, thank you mam, I can’t take it from you.” His integrity and pride shining through in the darkest of situations he was surviving. It meant everything that he did accept money from my husband.

I see my brother in the faces of each person I encounter living on the streets. Each of us is more than the labels that society gives us when we are the perfectly imperfect human beings that we all are. Each of us deserves kindness and compassion as we make our way through the challenges.

A home is more than a building. It is safety, a comfort zone; a place to be with family and friends, away from the challenges the world can bring. The stories shared by the local news station are a reminder of the humanity and the struggles of those who are surviving without a home.

susan schirl smith
Susan Schirl Smith is a writer, photographer and holistic nurse based in New Hampshire. Her essays have been published in Cognoscenti, Pangyrus, Silver Birch Press and The Journal of Holistic Nursing. Her photography has been featured in Barren Magazine and L’Ephemere Review. Smith’s current manuscript is Desperado, a memoir of her brother. You can follow Susan on her website or Facebook.

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