Jasmine Brogdon ~ Staff Writer
Homelessness is an issue many people either dismiss or only really think about when it’s mentioned.
Being homeless has many dimensions. A person who does not have a house is houseless. However, being homeless is an inadequate experience of connectedness with family and/or community.
Lynchburg College’s Bonner Leaders attempted to recreate the sad reality of “houselessness” during the Hunger and Homelessness Week. Students would sleep outdoors for a night or maybe the whole week. I decided to show my solidarity and become a solidarity sleeper, but only for two nights.
As I prepared to humble myself and lie on the ground, I was content. I was satisfied with the knowledge that, if I hated it, I could simply go back to my room, leave the ground where spit has settled and bundle up warm in bed; I would wake up the next morning, and I would have shelter. I knew that if anything bad happened, I had people I could depend on. Most homeless individuals don’t know that feeling. They have to deal with crowded shelters and the certainty of desertion.
Homelessness is about a lack of connectedness. Belonging somewhere is about belonging with other people, like belonging to a family or local community. The largest social demographic in first world countries that experiences homelessness are actually elderly people who are “houseful.” Quite often their spouse has died, and their children live at a distance. They feel the same loneliness and abandonment as the person living on the street.
I layered my clothing and resigned myself to the cold I was about to face. I initially gave no thought to the people who had to grace the unforgiving streets in much more extreme weather. I couldn’t take it if I had the sun beating down on me, merciless in its torture. Neither could I take it if I had to lie on a foot of snow. Shelters are mostly booked to capacity in colder seasons, after all; a spot in one is no guarantee.
People in institutions including prisons or juvenile justice centers often feel the same loneliness or, more accurately, experience homelessness because the only people they have contact with other than the other “homeless” inmates are people paid to be a part of their life, such as people who work in soup kitchens or shelters on the streets.
I grabbed a sleeping bag and cardboard to lay on, a luxury to some. Deciding that, if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right, I picked a spot under a tree that may give coverage in case the weatherman got it right, and it rained.
I lied there, and it hit me. This simulation, although well-meaning and thoughtful, was a complete sham. Even though I was on dirt, I didn’t have mindset of a homeless person. I didn’t know their struggle. I was a bit peckish, but that’s nothing compared to the intense hunger some homeless encounter.
The rain descended. I was protected and warm; I hadn’t the faintest clue it was happening until someone told me. How many homeless people have to sleep with no coverage and brave the harshest of storms, without anyone to give them sanctuary? This is a problem.
Afterward, I went to my dorm room and continued my day as usual. I was fine. I wasn’t abandoned on the pavement, grappling with simple daily tasks. Some might read this, despair for a few minutes, but eventually forget. They too are fine. Yet can we really know with absolute certainty what tomorrow holds?