John is sleeping outside in Philadelphia. He tried shelters, but someone stabbed John trying to steal his boots, so he feels safer sleeping on the streets even though the overnight windchill is reported to be a deadly -11° or worse.
John had a great job in the telecommunications industry fixing police and fire communication systems. He fell on the job, which resulted in serious injuries. John was in a coma for some time, and he claims his homelessness is a result of insurance industry abuse. Clearly, John is disabled, yet he has not been approved for disability benefits. John is vulnerable, and he should not be on the streets – period!
Moments before we met John, a woman spit on him simply because John asked her for a cigarette. Like most urban centers anymore, downtown Philadelphia is filled with large groups of homeless people nestled up alongside fancy restaurants, pricey shopping, and executive offices. This mixture of two extremely different socioeconomic classes can be volatile at times. I don’t agree with this woman’s actions, but something in the past, aggressive panhandling or an intoxicated homeless person verbally assaulting her could have influenced such awful behaviors. We must get people experiencing homelessness the help they need, and we need more funding for education and awareness campaigns to change public perceptions about homelessness.
Special thanks to Charlie.