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Comedian Chris Rock once said, “If a homeless person has a funny sign, he hasn't been homeless that long.” It’s hard to believe that despite the hardships of being homeless, people who lack housing and are unable to maintain a safe and normal shelter allow their personality and sense of humor to shine through when begging for money. Signs like “Betcha can’t hit me with a quarter!” and, “I’ll bet you a dollar you read this sign,” catch the attention of many people that walk by. More times than not, if someone walking by laughs from a sign they read written by a homeless person, that individual will most likely empty their pockets for loose change. The fact of the matter is, a person that is homeless will do anything possible to get money.

Four years ago, an estimated worldwide total of 100 million people were homeless. According to HUD’s July 2008 3rd Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, in a single night in January 2007, the report showed that there were 671,888 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people nationwide in the United States. The number of persons in sheltered households with Children was about 130,968.[[#_edn1|¹]]

Researchers use a variety of methods to measure homelessness. One method attempts to count all the people who are literally homeless on a given day or during a given week. This form of sampling is called a point in time count. A second method of counting homeless people examines the number of people who are homeless over a given period of time. This is known as a period prevalence count. Regardless of the time period over which the study was conducted, many people will not be counted because they are not in places researches can easily find. This group of people, often referred to as the “unsheltered” or “hidden” homeless, frequently stay in automobiles, camp grounds, or other places that are not easy to find.[[#_edn2|²]]

In the past twenty years, there has been an increasing shortage of affordable rental housing and along with that, a simultaneous increase in poverty. Homelessness and poverty are linked together. Poor people are frequently unable to pay for housing, food, childcare, healthcare and education. When there is little money in the picture, difficult choices must be made when limited resources cover only some of the many necessities of everyday life. Often, housing, which takes up a large proportion of an individual’s income, must be taken away.

Minimum wage, in my opinion, is a huge contributor to poverty and to putting people out on the streets. Many people in our country get paid below the minimum wage and have absolutely no way of making ends meet. An average person who has a job earning minimum wage, which right now is $7.15, makes a little over $10,000 per year. How difficult do you think it is for a person to have to choose between eating dinner for the next month or paying their rent? In most cases, hunger comes before shelter. This is why we so many people out on the streets.

I recall a story I once heard a long time ago. There was once a very successful doctor who was trusted and doing very well in his profession. He had a wife and kids, he lived in an expensive house, and was an exceptional father. One day, however, while in surgery, his patient had died. The doctor became so miserable and depressed that eventually he left his family and decided to live on the streets. Because of the fatal death of his patient, the doctor concluded that he was not worthy of living in such an intricate house and having an amazing family. He thought he hadn’t deserved a good life.

I remember hearing that story and being in dismay. If someone had an option, why would they choose to live without the gifts of food or shelter? It was very hard for me to think of a concept to describe what was going through this man’s head. Of course, every homeless person on the street wasn’t once a successful doctor. However, when you walk by a person who is living in an alleyway in a card board box, so many things go through your head. This person wasn’t always homeless; what was he like ten or fifteen years ago?

Another thing that makes you wonder is how a person living on the streets can manage to put their hardships on the backburner and be able to write a comic sign that makes people laugh as they walk by. It may not be known why or how certain individuals became homeless, but regardless of the fact, I believe they deserve recognition for having the mindset to beg for change in this way.

There are a number of organizations that are trying to help homeless people, but that’s not the problem. What we should be trying to help is the reason behind homelessness to prevent it from even happening. Our economy needs to get their act together to ensure all of its citizens have a chance at a better tomorrow rather than a worse.


----[[#_ednref1|¹]]"Homelessness." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 04 Apr. 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homelessness>. [[#_ednref2|²]] National Coalition for the Homeless. 04 Apr. 2009 <http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/facts/How_Many.html>.===