Homelessness is not a life sentence

by Michael L. McCray

People often look at the homeless and see only a reflection of the moment, not the person's history. Most homeless people are not born homeless, nor do they necessarily die homeless. Ron Reinhart is a 47-year-old man who understands this, having been homeless at various times during an 18 year span of his life.

Ron's homeless life began in 1970, during the end of the hippie movement. He attributes much of his homeless experience to drugs and alcohol abuse. I think I was like everyone else at that time - we were trying to find ourselves, but in reality we were already there,” he says. “We were all looking for a change but there could not be any change because you brought the same person with you wherever you went.

During those times Ron did a lot of things he was ashamed of - such as lying, cheating, and stealing - just to get through the day and support his drug and alcohol habits. Eventually, he was no longer able to care for himself.

But Ron's life has changed, and today he is the Program Director at Bishop Cosgrove Center in Cleveland. The center offers meals and other support services to homeless drug users and alcoholics. Ron has been free of his addictions for eight years. He attributes his recovery to spirituality. “I get up every morning and give it to God and go about my business. When I do face a crisis in my life, God removes the obsession and I do not drink, I do not even think about it. I do make mistakes every day but so does everyone else. It's a part of life." Ron sees the main cause of homelessness a little differently than most people. He attributes the problems many homeless people face to broken personal relationships.

“Today we seem to think that homelessness is caused by economic conditions. But if that were true, then during times of great prosperity we would have no homeless people," Ron says. “Economics is a partial answer, it is not a complete answer. Getting people back into housing, rehabilitation, is all a good thing, but if they do not learn how to nurture relationships with other people and a crisis enters their life again they will be right back on the streets again."

Most people who are alcoholics or drug addicts break down those important human relationships. He feels that this behavior destroys the vital human safety net that we all need to survive.

When asked if he thinks he will ever end up homeless again, Ron says no. He now has just too many friends who would prevent that from happening. His own safety net is firmly in place.

Copyright  NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published Oct. – Dec. 1995 Issue 12