There are probably as many reasons for becoming homeless as there are homeless people, but the large segment of people who wind up homeless on their own accord did so by making the same life-altering, bad decisions.
Bad Decision #1 – Quitting School
The worst decision anyone can make, that will have the most adverse affects on them for their entire adult life, is the decision to drop out of school before they graduate grade 12. I know in the “old days” a lot of people had to quit school in grade 6 to go to work in order to put food on the table but this isn’t 1938 anymore. Every child age 16 and under is required by law to attend school, and since a public education is free; it shouldn’t be a problem for poor children to attend school until they graduate. A 16 year old who decides to quit school has just wiped out much their future in a heartbeat (see: http://www.ssta.sk.ca/research/school_improvement/92-03.htm#ls ). Believe me, the numbers are very small for the amount of people who only have a grade 10 education that wound up making it “big” in life. Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to even find a job scrubbing toilets that doesn’t require a grade 12 education. Sixteen-year-old children don’t know much about the real world or the profound ramifications their life-altering, bad decisions will have on their entire adult life. If you know someone who wants to quit high school, have a little chat with them and let them know what their life will really be like without an education, and then drag them to school every day, kicking and screaming if you have to. Trust me, they’ll thank you for it later.
Bad Decision #2 – And Baby Makes Three
The second most life-altering, bad decision a person can make is the one where a teenage parent decides to keep their baby. The facts of teenage pregnancy are the subject of an entirely different article, but the decision to keep the baby is of great concern in this article. It is a heart-wrenching decision to give up a baby, but it is a brave teenager who does give up her baby in the best interests of both herself and the child (see: http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/020501/td020501.htm ). People who have good educations and good jobs have a hard time coping with raising a baby. What makes a teenager who has no education, no job, no money, and no family or social support, think they can successfully raise a child on their own? Sadly, most teenagers or young adults who keep their first baby wind up having more babies and living in grinding poverty, and yes, more of these people are becoming homeless (SEE: http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/publish/research/020327-0662318986-e.html). The reality is, most teenage mothers don’t go anywhere in life but down the slippery-slope and into the black hole, some never to return. And no, most Prince Charmings are not scouring the homeless shelters looking for a princess to rescue. If a teenager is determined to keep their baby, they should be prepared for the long haul because it won’t be fun and the chances of survival, let alone success, are slim. If you don’t believe me, call Social Services and ask them how many young, single (especially teenage) mothers they have on their files.
Bad Decision #3 – Two Taboos: Drugs and Alcohol
Another life-altering, bad decision that can ruin a person’s life, and most definitely make them homeless, is the decision to drink and/or do drugs. I’m not talking about the odd glass of wine with a meal, or a few belts at a Christmas party. I’m talking about binge drinking and becoming an alcoholic or doing drugs to the point where half your brain is fried. It is my opinion that alcoholism is not a disease. I don’t view it as something like cancer or diabetes where your body “develops” it over time; rather that people choose to drink and “become” alcoholics over time. There are a very high number of young, able-bodied persons who are homeless –but they’re often homeless because they are severe alcoholics or drug addicts. People who choose to drink or do drugs to the point where they have ruined their health and their life, will more than likely wind up homeless: through the incapacities addiction causes, it is a natural progression of events (see: http://www.santepub-mtl.qc.ca/Medecin/alcool/drug.html).
The Lazy Bird Does Not Get the Worm!
We all think it but nobody says it. The truth as I see it are that some people are just so lazy, it’s not surprising that they wind up homeless. These “lazy bums” spend 99% of their time flopped out on the couch watching TV or playing computer games, and do absolutely nothing with their lives. Sometimes family and friends try to help this person find a job but every offer is turned down because “that’s not what they want to do”. It’s hard to picture these people amounting to anything; they can be a drain on our social systems, and while sticking to their bad habits, they will most definitely never become president of a company. This is the same person who also tries to justify their “laziness” by trying to convince you that they are “trying to find themselves”. When this person winds up homeless one day, usually because his parents or their roommate kicked them out, they haven’t become homeless due to extenuating circumstances beyond their control, they wound up homeless because they did nothing to prevent it.
The Silver Spoon Syndrome
You might wonder how some people who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths wound up homeless. It’s a psychological thing. When parents spoil their children rotten, in essence they “ruined” them (meaning, the child was never taught how to do anything for himself, and everything was given to him on a silver platter); they won’t know how to do anything for themselves as adults. In that position, a person’s self-esteem is likely very low because they were never able to do anything for themselves in order to prove your own self-worth. These people don’t have the desire or ambition to live their own life and through a series of events, can wind up homeless. Sometimes the parents of these children decide to cut them off financially in an effort to motivate them to “get a life”, but all they achieve is throwing the child into a financial tailspin and putting them on the street. When parents raise their children to be spoiled rotten adults, they do them a great disservice.
There does exist a core of people who are “legitimately” homeless and are in dire need of help -but they are not receiving this help because the numbers of homeless people are too high to service adequately. When you hear the plight of a homeless person, try to find out the real reason why are homeless. As well as those who had homelessness forced upon them, there are those who choose to be homeless and some who made themselves homeless.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming Homeless:
1. Don’t do drugs.
2. Don’t drink excessively.
3. Don’t become a teenage parent, or have children at a very young age.
4. Get at least a grade 12 diploma. If possible, get a college or university education, or learn a trade.
5. Don’t stay in low-paying, dead-end jobs for years. If you are in one of these jobs, always be looking for a better job until you find one. Until you find a better job, you can increase your chances of finding a better job by taking courses or job skills training programs.
Diane is a full-time, freelance writer. She specializes in writing technical articles for the oil and gas industry, but also writes feature length magazine articles of all genres, including Calgary-based magazines. She is working towards a Bachelor of General Studies degree.