Being homeless definitely has it’s disadvantages, and one of those disadvantages is being more vulnerable. People who live in homes often imagine the lives of homeless people and how hard it is, but they can’t always envision the exact types of scenarios that homeless people often find themselves in. As a homeless person, I felt more vulnerable to violence, corruption, and a whole range of other things that I normally wouldn’t have to worry about. There’s so many different ways that a homeless person can be vulnerable, but the top 5 ways are as follows.
In Their Sleep
When a homeless person is sleeping at night, that’s probably when they’re most in danger. When I was sleeping outside, that’s always when I felt the most vulnerable. As a homeless person, you only have a few choices when sleeping outdoors. You can sleep in an encampment or you can sleep on your own. I felt at risk sleeping in the encampment, because I was surrounded by many other homeless people and a lot of them have shady backgrounds or a violent history.
But on the other hand, I felt more at risk sleeping on my own and away from them. If someone were to attack me in my sleep when I was alone, it would have been easier for them to get away with it. In an encampment, some people may think twice about attacking other people in their sleep, because there are a lot of witnesses there to see it.
But in the city where I was homeless, I would read news headlines about other homeless people being killed in their sleep. One man set another man on fire while he was sleeping, using light fluid and a match. I’m a light sleeper myself, so I’d usually wake up if someone were to walk up to me, but when you’re in an encampment you don’t want to isolate yourself too much and have everybody see that you’re away from the crowd. When you’re sleeping in the crowd, there’s all kinds of people moving around throughout the night, coming and going constantly. So you do tend to let your guard down a little bit more than you normally would, to ignore some of those harmless movements around you.
To the Police
Not every police officer has a heart of gold, and as the news has shown us over the years, there’s a whole lot of corrupt cops out there in the world. When a person is homeless, it puts them in a vulnerable position to where even the cops will take advantage of them. If a corrupt cop is trying to make some arrests and find a criminal so that he can move up in his career quickly or look good to his superiors, a homeless person is the perfect person to frame. They’re often living or sleeping in industrial areas or run-down parts of the city where few witnesses can be found late at night, and they’re more noticeable to police than other people because of their appearance. Some police may view them as being subhuman and will have no problem framing them for something they didn’t do or provoke them into doing something they normally wouldn’t.
To the Justice System
Any homeless person who goes to court can be vulnerable to injustice because they may be unfairly judged due to their disposition. If a homeless person is arrested with crack cocaine, which a police officer planted on them, nobody in court is going to believe that homeless person when they hear that they were homeless. Being homeless carries such a stigma that majority of people would believe it if a homeless person were arrested for something, particularly something related to drugs or alcohol.
So they don’t necessarily have the same legal leg to stand on that other people do, since a judge may automatically assume they are guilty just because they sleep on the streets. Hollywood movies like Gang Related (1997) show how easy it is for the police to frame a homeless person, but more importantly, how easy it is for them to convince the media and courts that the person is guilty. Although these scenes take place in movies, it’s also a reality that happens every year around the world and there’s been plenty of homeless people who were released and exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of various crimes.
Homeless people aren’t always treated with a lot of respect from the rest of society, since they’re often labeled and as bums and losers and stereotyped by so many people. So they’re vulnerable to being unfairly judged, insulted, or even attacked by other people who aren’t homeless. Every year there’s at least one or two stories about a group of teens or young adults jumping and beating up a homeless person. Some people think of hobos as being subhuman and not worthy of the same rights and respect that the majority of people expect. Some parents don’t do a good enough job when it comes to teaching their children to respect people from different walks of lives and different backgrounds. So these children often grow up to view homeless people as being unworthy of respect and fair treatment.
One of the most unfortunate things about being homeless, especially for women, is that they’re more vulnerable to sexual predators and violent or abusive people. This includes predators who are homeless themselves and those who are not. One common scenario that I’ve seen is where a woman is homeless and is worried about being raped or killed while she sleeps alone outside. So she’ll stay with a man in his vehicle or tent and he may abuse her or act cruel to her. She’ll stick around because she might be worried about what might happen to her on the streets alone. She tolerates the mistreatment from the man in exchange for his protection and male presence, because she might feel that her only other option is to sleep alone on the streets and risk a fate that’s even worse.