Harrisburg, PA

Editorial: The Struggles of Homelessness

Michele Orsinger

Every city throughout the country deals with homeless communities and encampments. There’s a lot of speculation regarding those who live that lifestyle. Some do it by choice… others have been forced into that situation. Regardless of why they live that way, as fellow humans we should be offering compassion. Each one of them has a story to tell - if only people would be willing to listen. It’s vital to see and understand life through their eyes (and experiences)... not what we “think” their life should be like. I hope more people are willing to do that after reading what is being said here. Here comes another “eye opening” piece about humanity.

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The homeless population that my husband and I encounter through our outreach come from so many different backgrounds. We started Feed the Harrisburg Homeless in February 2021 and have met some of the most fabulous people through our journey. I can’t even tell you what inspired us to set it up, it just happened… the reason isn’t even relevant. What matters is that it’s getting done - by us and by so many others. We’ve become friends with other outreaches that we encountered along the way. It’s like we’re our own little community… and we’re helping those who need it most.

One of the biggest misconceptions regarding homelessness is that they’re all addicts… that they deserve to live on the streets. That is so far from the truth. Yes, we take care of a lot of addicts… but, labeling them all that way is just ridiculous. So, here I am to set the record straight and share a few stories from their lives - things they confided in us about… things that society needs to really think about. Homelessness could affect any one of us at any given moment - would you want to be judged and labeled if it was you or a loved one… I doubt it.

The first story I want to share with you is about Krystal - as she would tell you, it’s Krystal with a K… and she was gunned down December 28, 2021. She was an elderly woman left to die wearing 5 layers of clothes - no one realized she was shot. Everyone in that area always looked out for her and made sure she was warm, fed and safe. Tragedy still struck. Krystal chose to live on the streets after losing her husband many years ago… she owned (up until her death) a house that she couldn’t bring herself to live in without her husband. She was a spit-fire of a lady and talked everyone’s ear off. Krystal never did drugs… she loved music and reading, she loved a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s… and she hated having her picture taken. Her choice was simply made because of her mental stability at the time - and she thrived living among other transients. Krystal successfully built a whole new family after losing her own… with those she felt most comfortable with. Who are we to judge that decision… seriously.

There was also a married couple who ended up losing everything from the pandemic - first their jobs, then their home after the lack of income. Neither of them were addicts. Within a week of living at one of the homeless encampments, they both were called for job interviews… and got hired. A month later, they saved enough and found a small apartment. It was embarrassing for them to reach out when we first met them and I totally understand why… they barely left their tent. The judgment is rampant when outsiders look in.

When it comes to the addicts we help, one story comes to mind… this is the one that opened my eyes the most. You see, the homeless communities don’t open up to strangers very easily. We encountered a woman and her boyfriend. They still live in the same spot where we first met them almost a year ago… and they are wonderful. I knew she was so deep into addiction, that never once changed how we treated or spoke to her. Our mission is simply to ensure that everyone gets a good meal… that everyone is warm… and that everyone knows they can talk to us when they decide to open up. The day came when she did - about 4 months after we initially met her. You see, this woman never once told me she was an addict… she just knew that I knew. She pulled me to the side, looked me in the face and told me she was ready. She asked for our help… she wanted sobriety. I got in the car as we were leaving and just cried. That’s the moment that my brain wrapped around it all… what we do can be life saving… without a doubt. The next day, I drove back to give her all the contact information and helped her on that path… a week later, she was in a rehab bed. Fast forward 7 months - she’s still sober. She still fights those demons every day… but now she wins.

To understand the struggles of homelessness, you must be willing to enter their world… to listen to each individual story… to open your minds and your hearts. A listening ear can go a long way to someone who feels alone. It’s about showing compassion and empathy. It’s about treating a fellow human being as the person they are… even if their home is a tent. We’re not on this earth to pass judgment or spread hate… we’re here to help each other along the way. After all, the little things to most of us are some of the biggest things to a homeless person. The time has come to improve the lives of everyone we encounter. Life is short… and every life deserves to be cherished… especially for those who society forgot about. The time is now to make a difference in the world.

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My mission is to provide the world with inspirational, educational, and real life stories. Almost everything created is done so in an editorial way. It's important to me that readers can find articles to read while feeling like they're part of the story.

Mechanicsburg, PA

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