When I was a kid, I didn’t understand the complexities of homelessness.
I just assumed that homeless people were all lazy and irresponsible. It couldn’t be that hard to get a job and take care of yourself, right? When you’re young, life is simple like that. No one ever explicitly told me this, but it was just a general understanding. Either you work hard and have a nice life, or you’re careless and end up homeless.
Being born and raised in Las Vegas, you’re surrounded by wealth and reminded of poverty constantly. When you’re driving down the Strip, it’s hard to imagine that just a few miles away, people were living in worn-down tents and sleeping on scalding sidewalks.
It didn’t make sense.
As I got older, the black and white method of childhood thinking became a multitude of grays, and I began to have a grasp on the issue.
When I was 15, my dad and I went on vacation to San Diego, California. One of the nights we were there, the two of us went to a gas station that was near our hotel and bought apples, bananas, individually wrapped sandwiches, and bottles of water. We walked around for a couple of hours, handing them out to the homeless people that lined the San Diego streets.
I’ll never forget that night. I’m not bringing this up so I can get brownie points for helping people out. I’m saying this because that night after we went back to the hotel- I was disgusted. Disgusted that so many people could be sleeping on the street, and no one was helping them. I was discouraged as well because I knew 15-year-old me couldn’t pass out food to everyone or give them all a place to stay. I knew homeless people existed before then, obviously, but it’s easy to put blinders on and go through your day to day and not think about them. I haven’t had those blinders on since.
Again, I saw two sides of the same city. The same city with stunning beaches, great nightlife, and a fantastic food scene had people crammed underneath bridges trying to survive another day.