The Homeless – 39 Questions For Your Reflection

The Homeless – 39 Questions For Your Reflection

by Mike O’Connor

Homeless 1. When you see a homeless person, do you look the other way and keep on walking?

2. Do you avoid making eye contact?

3. Is there a sudden selective deafness when you ‘hear’, or don’t, their requests for help?

4. If you do ignore a homeless person’s request for help, just how quickly does the incident evaporate from your mind?

5. Seconds? Minutes? Hours?

6. What is your honest opinion of these people who are teetering on the very edges of our society?

7. Do they feel that, possibly, they deserve their predicament?

8. Could it be that they are lazy?

9. If so, should they simply get off their lazy rear-ends and look for a decent job?

10. Is it easy to get a job where you live?

11. Do you think it is any easier to get a job, where you live, if you’re homeless?

12. Have you considered that there are homeless people who do have regular jobs?

13. Does your suspicion that some of these people might be pulling a con and actually making good money by pretending to be homeless and begging, stop you from helping any of them?


14. Do you feel a sense of disgust or detest the way they smell, look, sound or behave?

15. Do you have any personal experience of homelessness?

16. Could you handle being homeless day after day and keep things together?

17. Would you smell better, behave better or beg less, than a homeless person does, if you did not have a home to go to for the next 4-weeks?

18. Are the homeless asking for money because, in the main, they want to buy drugs and/or alcohol?

19. If so, is that why you won’t help them?

20. Can you see that if you were homeless you might also want to take something to numb your feelings about the situation?

21. Do you think the homeless are completely beyond our ability to help?

22. Is it that they should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps?

23. Would you prefer them to be ‘relocated’ away from your line of sight so that they can also be put out of your mind?

24. What are your thoughts on the concept of homelessness being a crime?

25. Do you see homeless people and hear yourself muttering internal sound bites like, “there but for the grace of God go I”?

26. Are you worried that their craziness, anger or diseases are contagious?


27. Were the homeless born homeless, addicted or mentally ill?

28. How close are you right now to being homeless?

29. How many missed salary payments would it take?

30. How many family members or friends would let you stay at their house?

31. How long would they let you stay?

32. Are you sure about that?

33. What would a bad divorce, redundancy or severe mental illness do to you?

34. Do you have a clear idea of just how far any one of us can fall and how quickly it can happen?

35. Are you immune from losing everything that you care about?

36. What is your response to these people who have less than you or nothing at all?

37. What is your response to a man, or woman, begging for food?

38. Do you help them, smile, offer something, anything, buy them food, stay there for a moment and engage in a conversation?

39. Are you somehow better than the homeless or just better off?


share using the buttons below



  1. Homelessness is such a huge issue. It weighs on my heart….but it’s so hard to know how to help. Simply giving money doesn’t seem to be the answer. We need systems in place that will help these dear people to find their way, feel valued, be safe, and finally, to learn to care for themselves in society….in whatever capacity they have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, these are all good points.

      It would certainly seem that there are no easy answers for the larger picture, so to say. Maybe all we can do is on the individual level and interact with each homeless person as we meet them, in the most positive way that we can.

      Vilifying the lost and the destitute, as can be seen in some sections of the media, is, to me, horrible beyond all words.


  2. Thanks for writing this. I volunteer as a Board member with an agency to help homeless families. When you see one homeless person, you have only seen one homeless person. Please note the female head of household families are the fastest growing segment of homeless people in the US. We should help the homeless people you meet on the street, but please know that you will not see the significant majority of homeless people on the street. The homeless folks on the street tend to be chronic homeless people, while the majority of homeless are acute homeless, where if we can help them climb a ladder, they can get back to self-sustainability. We should also help house the homeless on the street, but the solutions need to be tailored toward the audience, as some need more care than others, especially if their are multiple issues.

    With the homeless families we help, almost all have at least one job. We have clients who are tellers, teachers, teacher assistants, housekeeping, administrative, retail and restaurant employees. Yes, they have jobs and still lost their home. In my discussions with people, they are usually floored by that comment as it goes against the paradigm they have been led to believe. Some believe that people are homeless as they are less devout. That is a crock. These folks are some of the most devout people you will meet as their faith is all they have.

    If we want to do something about the homeless, here is my perspective as someone who has been doing this for 15 years and someone who is a retired benefits consultant and a true independent voter. We need to raise the minimum wage to at least a living wage for one adult. In my state of NC that is $9.12, but it varies by city and state. The median age for people making the minimum wage is 24, so we are not just talking teenagers here. We need to support the continuation of Obamacare which is showing success under multiple measures, in spite of its complexity, yet we need to get the states who did not expand Medicaid to do so. Absence of healthcare is the number one reason for personal bankruptcy in America. We need to make sure affordable birth control is available to teens and holistic sex education is taught, including how girls can say no and how boys should heed that message. Poverty is highly correlated with family size, and teenage pregnancy is a driver of homelessness. Abstinence should be taught, but I can assure you the temptation of sex is far greater just as it was for us when we were that age.

    And, finally we need to focus on helping people climb a ladder. Charity should be reserved for emergencies per Bob Lupton in “Toxic Charity.” We need empowered, milestone based help. I am a big believer and witness the success in pairing social worker support with time based housing subsidies. The key is to measure outcomes and tweak the model as needed to help people climb that ladder.

    I apologize for the soap box. I hope you don’t mind. BTG

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so powerful. I often make this point to my people about the homeless. Especially how close many of us are to being in their shoes. One unexpected medical illness, one job, one mistake away. Thanks for posting this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There are so many homeless people in my city. The problem is that so many of them aren’t really homeless. A lot of them are just panhandlers hoping someone will pity their cardboard sign. Actually, they make a lot of money standing there on the street, more than most working people do. It’s hard to tell if they’re legit or if they’re just going to buy drugs. People have started just handing out food or water instead of giving them money now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Funny, nobody actually answers the questions 😉
    1: very few times, most often not
    2: nope
    3: well…
    5: depends on the situation but I would say minutes
    6: again, depends on the person and situation
    7: I know from personal experiance that some do but most don’t
    8: some are, most aren’t
    9: It actually is ppossible to have a job while homeless, however you need a very determined person with a strong spine and outside help for that
    10: nowhere it is easy anymore.
    11: actually, if you count streetpapers as work (and it is work, you better believe that) yes
    12: Yes, personal experiance
    13: Unfortunatelly there are a few con homeless out there 😦 however most are “genuine” and no that never stopped me
    14: smell? look? sound? did you know that there are many many homeless that you never ever suspect of being homeless because they don’t smell, look homeless or sound homeless (how does a homeless sound anyways)
    15: Beeen homeless for over 15 years, have worked as social worker after that for a few years as well
    16: Whahahahahah, yes easy
    17: I would say for me personally yes. being homeless does not need to mean being unhygienic or a begger. homeless people are like…uh..people, some behave good, some less, some are straight criminals
    18: Homeless does not equal alcoholic or addict. you need food. never begged myself though and in fact most homeless don’t beg
    19: not applicable
    20:heck yes, just like normal people like to drink beer or wine after a hard days work I like to smoke a spliff (which is legal in my country)
    21: NO
    22: maybe sounds weird but for many this would, could and should be yes. I did it, so can others
    23: the NIMBY effect (not in my backyard) has always been around, people won’t admit it but most “regulars” think like it
    24: what? are you insane?
    25: nope
    26: what crazyness, what anger, which diseases?
    27: nope, nope, some
    28:currently far far away
    29: I am my own bioss, don’t get no salary
    30: lol maybe one or two
    31: those that would let me stay, a few weeks
    32: yes very sure
    33: pfff. depression
    34: uh…..yes
    35: nobody is:
    36: I talk with them, walk with them, laugh and cry with them. Tey are my friends my brethren and I will help them to the best of my abbility
    37: get a job… lol nah, if I can help I will help, lucky for them I know the ways they can take
    38: yes, yes, yes, yes and yes
    39: better off currently, I know a whole lot of people including homeless that I consider better people then I am

    In just 5% of the cases homelessnes is a choice in all the other cases it is circumstances. Help them if you can, you never know, maybe one day they might help you in return pay it forward, heelp a human being. buy a streetpaper, give clothing or blankets etc etc but DON’T blame them for their misfortune in life

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It makes people very uncomfortable to address the concept. We’re all subject to homelessness. Many years back, I had to spend a month on the street. After a divorce and some bad choices… there I was. Eating and sleeping in shelters was acceptable. I found work at a labor ready facility. I never asked anyone for any handouts and finally got myself in a better place. Re building my life from ground zero was a priceless experience.
    I now make six figures and I’m active in the homeless ministry at our church.
    Yes, there are many con artists in the homeless realm. There are many with mental illnesses that have no other choice. Alcoholism and substance abuse is prevalent among the homeless society. Thing is: they are human beings too that have real feelings. Yes, many will take advantage of you if given the chance.
    The way I see it: I help regardless of the outcome because I’ve been there.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Reblogged this on The Shoops Roost and commented:
    I almost didn’t want to read this post. I think it’s because I was afraid it would force me to confront something inside myself that I didn’t want to see. I scrolled up and down the main page looking for other articles to read. As I scrolled by this one again, I thought “Dammit, I’m going to read it. Comfort can go to hell.” As I thought, I was faced with some uncomfortable truths as I answered these questions honestly. But it needed to be done. I may not have a lot of money right now, but reading these 39 questions made me realize there are a few things I can do that don’t require money (and some that require a little, but not much). One of those things is raising awareness of the problem. Of confronting my own damn privilege and getting out of my comfort zone. It’s hard to do, but the world doesn’t revolve around me, and it is so often not very kind. This post has given me a good bit of stuff to think about.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. My husband and I would hand out food and blankets when we could to people we knew needed help. Around here, we are warned to not give money. They want us to contribute to food banks and shelters instead of giving it to an individual. My kids are living with me as jobs are not so easy to find. Almost every job we apply for are part time and min wage ($7.25/hour). With the way things are going, we will be homeless by February. Our car will be our home. But, I make too much money and own a car, so was told we can’t get any type of help. Yes, people, $11,000 a year (before self-employment tax is paid) is too much! We apply for jobs all of the time but I have never even been called in for an interview. Homelessness is a huge problem.


  9. This feels very appropriate at the moment, as I am writing a novel in which an elderly lady becomes homeless & is forced to live on the streets. It is a subject that I feel passionate about, however, like many people I rarely help financially although I do buy the big issue. It’s not enough, I realise that yet don’t know how best to help. I try to be friendly yet feel guilty because I have a home. Not coming across as patronising is a very real fear, so to my shame I do frequently avoid getting into conversation. It is such a dreadful situation for them ( I’m sure that a few are lazy down & outs but the majority have found themselves in this desperate situation through no real fault of their own.) It could happen to anyone. It could happen to my Sons, my granddaughters, my alcoholic ex. Me.
    I have racked my brain to find ways to make a difference but failed. Throwing a few pennies in their direction or buying a hot coffee feels like trying to clear myself of feelings of guilt.
    I belong to the society that have let these people down. We should all hang our heads in shame!
    Thank you for you thought provoking post.


  10. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this Mike. I spend my summers with a rolling cart handing out bottles of water and my winters handing out hats, gloves and boxes of cereal bars (8 in a box) to the homeless. I have talked to hundreds of homeless people the past few years and the tragic beauty behind each set of eyes is something that will stay with me forever. On my last day on earth I will remember the man who jumped up after I gave him a year’s worth of change on Christmas Day. He jumped to his feet and shouted with a huge smile: “YOU SEE!! YOU JUST GOTTA HAVE FAITH!!!” On that day, I gave a man a lot of change, but most important of all, I gave a man hope. For a brief moment, he saw that one person among the millions of New Yorkers cared about HIM. For a brief moment, he felt like he mattered. On my last day on earth, I will remember his face and the faces of all the other people living on the streets. I have accomplished much in my life, but the look in the eyes of a person who receives a hat on a frigid winter day is what I will remember on my last day – aside from all the rest, that moment reminds me that this life is worth it if we live by the heart.
    BLESS YOU FOREVER FOR CARING!! Here is a piece I wrote about it all: https://cindalawrencelifecoach.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/as-i-stand-before-the-mirror-a-valentine-to-the-homeless-and-a-plea-for-anyone-alive/
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and keep writing and pushing for more and more and more action. I always tell people, “if imitation is the purest form of flattery, I hope everybody grabs a cart full of hats and gloves this winter and imitates me a thousand times over”.
    Sending much love and deep gratitude,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.