Negative stereotypes often lead to misunderstanding of homelessness

It’s safe to say I spend a lot of time downtown Stockton. More often than not, you could find me at the Regal Cinema, located in the heart of the metropolitan area. Since I first moved to Stockton in 2012, homelessness has been an issue, specifically in this part of the city. However, as the years have passed by, it has become increasingly worse.

Last January, a biannual census revealed that the number of residents who are homeless and have no shelter in San Joaquin County rose dramatically from 2015 to 2017. Out of all the cities located within the county, Stockton’s upsurge was by far the most severe. On any given night, there’s a good chance you’ll run into more than one of these residents while on the streets.

There are negative stereotypes commonly associated with the homeless, perhaps you’ve also entertained these beliefs. Many people think those who live on the streets have an alcohol or drug problem and that’s what led them to the dismal predicament they’re in now. While this could be true in some instances, that is not always the case. Putting all of the homeless into the same box before listening to their stories is simply not fair.

I’ve heard such beliefs vocalized and witnessed their ramifications play out firsthand. Upon seeing a homeless person, it’s common for individuals to look in the other direction or cross the street to avoid contact. When asked for money, some pretend they didn’t hear and continue what they were doing as if nobody is there. Knowing that this is the response the homeless typically get upsets me greatly.

It’s difficult for me to understand why so many view the homeless as threatening. Sure, some may be slightly more aggressive than others, but at the end of the day, they’re average human beings like you and I who have just fallen on hard times. They’re not aliens who are utterly impossible to relate to.

When asked what we could do to help the less fortunate, a homeless woman by the name of Julie B. Seymour told the Sacramento Bee: “Share with others the lost art of friendship and true meaning of human kindness.”

You don’t need to be wealthy in order to make an impact in somebody’s life. Doing something as simple as engaging in a conversation or bringing a cup of coffee to one who has spent the last night in the bitter cold can be of more value than you think.