I Believe that We Need to Think About “Emotional Homeless”

By Kim “Supermutt” Goodman

    When we think of homeless people, we think of those who are physically homeless.  We picture people who have no money, no job, no house or an apartment to live in and we sometimes feel sorry for them because they lack things what we feel are important.  There is one kind of homeless not too many people understand.  It is what I call “emotional homelessness.”

    There are a lot of people who live on the street who suffer from emotional and physical homelessness. Then there are people who have a physical structure in which they live, where they pay rent and sometimes utilities, who suffer from something I would call “emotional Homeless.” Now, you are probably curious about “emotional homelessness!”

    “Emotional homeless” describes someone who lacks a loving, caring and home-like environment where they feel happy and content with these relationships. 

    To understand, you must first fully understand what a home really is.  A home is more than just a roof over your head or a place to sleep.  A home is a physical structure (a house, an apartment, a room, or a trailer home) where a person feels safe, secure and happy.  For a child, it is a starting point where their parents discover their talents and help them develop them, teach their child that they are valuable and a place where the child feels loved, valued and appreciated.  People who live in homes value them, and when they leave, they can’t wait to return to them.

    Many people think the answer to a homeless person’s problem is to help him get housing so that they will have a stable place to live, but this is not always the solution.  Many homeless people get housing but they still don’t have a home.  Most people overlook the fact that some homeless people have a different set of needs.  Many have unmet emotional and mental needs left over from their childhood that makes them incomplete as a person.

    To some people, their place of residence is just a physical structure where they sleep, and store their stuff for safekeeping.  Those people often lack supportive people in their lives.  Many have disabilities or were survivors of abuse or neglect and lack the social skills and mental ability to reach out and connect with others appropriately.  People who are “emotionally homeless” often leave home in search of what most people find a home. Many go to area meal sites and drop in centers in search of human companionship and friendly faces or to get hugs or kind words from staff and volunteers.  Some sit in front of their apartment buildings or hang out in the lobby or around their building looking for someone to interact with. 

    Some “emotionally homeless” people have children, hoping to create someone to love and care about them.  Some end up being good parents because they choose to do the opposite of what their parents did to them.  Others abuse their children because they may not know how to be a good parent or because they want their child to meet their needs that their parents failed to meet. 

    A lot of “emotionally homeless” people never had a home to live in.  As kids, many found their places of residence to be fearful places.  Now as adults, they continue to search for a home in which they feel a sense of belonging.  Some find their places of residence to be depressing and lonely and may abuse alcohol or drugs to ease their feelings of isolation that sometimes can cause them to become physically homeless once again.  Others make bad choices in friendships or mates because they are so desperate for companionship or because they don’t know how to look for good qualities in a person.

    The cure for “emotional homelessness” is positive human companionship.  Someone who can see the person as a valuable person, notice their talents and skills and help them build on them. They could spend time with the person who is struggling, or call the person to see if they are okay. They could drop by the person’s house to see how they are doing and most importantly, show (not just tell) the person how much they care about them. If someone says encouraging words to a person, that person is more likely to do something positive instead of something negative.

    You can follow me on twitter: Supermut101

 Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Cleveland Street Chronicle #19.1 April – May 2012