Five Homeless Stereotypes Debunked

Emily Summars is a senior at the University of Oklahoma. During her time at WWFF11 Emily chose to learn more about COSAC City, a halfway home community that COSAC is planning to build.

Photo Phil Sunkel

I’m from Oklahoma and I expected the weekend to be filled with bad food, little sleep and uncomfortable situations at the COSAC Homeless Shelter. I didn’t expect a warm welcome into the shelter. I expected every stereotype and rumors I had ever heard to be true. Why? I’m a mold of my Oklahoman culture.

1. Food

All homeless people are starving, right? Friday night we ate in the COSAC Homeless Shelter with the residents. I was thinking we would be eating cafeteria food and mentally prepared myself for the nasty instant mashed potatoes, frozen chicken nuggets and canned cream of corn. Not an Oklahoman’s favorite meal, let me just say. What I actually ate was grilled chicken breast, green beans, seasoned wedge fries and a giant piece of moist chocolate cake. And I mean giant, like the size of my palm.

2. Beggars

The economy is rough and people are hurting, we all know this. Most people have bummed a quarter from someone for a soda but they’re too prideful to admit it. There’s the generalization that all homeless people are beggars. Negative. Not one homeless resident at the shelter asked me for money. In fact, they didn’t even want to speak to me. I tried to speak with four residents before my eagerness for conversation paid off with a lovely woman from Haiti and an ex-stockbroker from New York.

3. Laziness

As a college student, I’m pretty damn lazy. I’ve learned that homeless people show more initiative than me. Michael, a COSAC resident, gutted and remodeled a house in a month for the shelter and he taught himself by watching the Home and Garden channel. Homeless people are not lazy. They want to work and earn money. They may not appreciate the pay or the job but they’ll do anything from selling papers to cutting hair.

4. Medicine

I just assumed all homeless people do drugs or are alcoholics. They overdose, go to the hospital and repeat. Yeah, no. Residents of COSAC have narcotic drug boxes. They have to put their drugs in a black locked box to prevent them from overdosing.

In Oklahoma there’s this popular theory that homeless people overdose for a free trip to the hospital. But that’s not the case. COSAC’s medicine cabinet contains GasX, Benefiber, Advil and other over the counter medications. Homeless people have upset stomachs and headaches.

5. Signs

Every time I see a homeless person in Oklahoma, they’re holding a cardboard sign that reads, “No job. Anything helps. God Bless.” I always wondered if homeless people were just writing “God Bless” because they were in Oklahoma or because they really love God. I learned that most really do love God and they don’t carry signs everywhere. They’re proud people, with values and morals. Residents of COSAC may have a few more disheveled items in their shelf life but they’re human beings with emotions who need love and people to show genuine interest in them. We don’t need to judge or criticize them.

– Emily Summars, University of Oklahoma

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