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So...What Do You Think?

  1. What does it mean to be homeless? How would you define it?

  2. Does someone have to live “out-of-doors” to be considered homeless? Can he or she live in a rented room or sleep at a friend’s or relative’s house and still be considered homeless? 

  3. Who are the people, the seniors we call “homeless”?  

  4. How would you define “secure housing”? 

  5. What are the causes for an elder to be without secure housing and end up living out-of-doors, on the streets or in a shelter?

  6. What systemic and societal barriers interfere with a homeless elder’s ability to obtain secure housing?

  7. How does someone “pull themselves up by their boot straps” if they don’t own boots? If they suffer from a mental illness? If they experience chronic illness?

  8. What resources are available to seniors who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless?

  9. What has to happen, what do we have to do individually and collectively to address the crisis of senior homelessness and its many complications?

  10. How can we prevent it in the first place? 

For your consideration…


In the class, “Race and Class in Human Services,” which I attended at UMASS Boston’s College of Public and Community Service, one of the assignments we were given was to “try on the moccasins” of an individual who was different than we were – someone we had trouble understanding or identifying with – and keep a journal as if we were living the life of that person for two weeks.  We didn’t actually have to live that person’s life, but we had to be present in our thoughts to the individual and his/her situation and think about what he/she experienced in “a day in the life of …” and keep notes.

I “tried on the shoes” of a 40-year-old homeless woman living on the streets of Boston during the month of November.  I thought about her safety at night, sleeping atop one of the warm subway vents on the sidewalk near the Prudential Tower wearing most of the clothes she owned. She was wrapped in just a grey wool blanket, no pillow.  Her life’s belongings were in a large black trash bag next to her.  How did she clean her clothes or herself every day? Where could she go to find some relief from her monthly cramps which were so debilitating? Where did she get enough water to drink, not to speak of food?  And it’s so cold out here.  As she shivered in the mind-numbing cold, could she even think? Where did she go every day? If she found a bed in a shelter, did she feel safe? Did she have any friends or did she stay to herself? These days are so long. I wondered how she got this way.

Would you consider trying on a different pair of shoes today?

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