Empathy requires us to stand in another's shoes and experience their situation and the emotions that go with that. I try to imagine being homeless and living on the street, under a bridge, in a camp made of tarpolians. It is really hard to imagine because I have never been so without resources that I didn't have a clean dry space to sleep.
I have been homeless a couple of times, but I always had someone who would take me in until I could get on my feet again. At night when I'm going to sleep in my soft, warm bed I wonder what it would be like to try to sleep on a piece of cardboard on concrete or on the ground in some weeds. I can't imagine doing it. If I were lucky enough to have a sleeping bag, which isn't very likely, I might manage it. But if it was raining or snowing? I don't think so.
I am grateful for my warm, dry, safe house. I'm grateful that I don't worry about where I might get my next meal. We went to the grocery store today and spent nearly $200 in groceries. If I was living on the street I couldn't carry much food even if I could buy it. And the likelihood of having a hot meal is pretty small unless I can find somewhere that they were giving out free meals. If I was new to homelessness I might not know where to go for any help.Sometimes during the day I go to the kitchen for a snack and have several choices to choose from. That sure wouldn't be possible if I were living on the street.
And what about appropriate clothes to deal with the weather? I might have a coat, but it would probably be cheap and not warm enough for winter winds. And how many changes of clothes do you think I'd have? I'd have no access to a laundry and would just wear whatever I had for as long as it held together. Clean, dry socks would be a godsend.
I might find a bed in a homeless shelter occasionally, but not always. They fill up really quickly and if you're not there at just the right time you get closed out. You have to arrange to be nearby at the time they open. That might not be possible often. And in the shelter there is only a bed, no shower or food. And you sleep with lots of people in a room, so it isn't quiet and doesn't feel very safe. It is known that your stuff gets stolen. Sometimes people get beaten up. Hard to believe, but it is often safer on the street than in a shelter.
I don't know how they manage to survive. I doubt if I could do it. That is why one of my primary causes that I support is a group that helps provide items needed for the unsheltered homeless in our area. The need is so great. I know I can't solve the overall problem, but I can provide things like new clean socks, food that doesn't have to heated, toiletries, warm hats, gloves, scarves, etc., each month.
That is my act of kindness, motivated by empathy and compassion. What's yours?