By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
Always contending with the dangers of the streets, sometimes debilitating heat and possible dehydration in the summer months accompanied with cold and rain in the winter, homelessness in whatever season is not a walk in the park.
Then along with the weather, there’s the almost inevitable depression that accompanies homelessness. It can get so bad that some end up drowning their sorrows in the bottle, which unleashes another entirely different set of problems.
Do you relate? Have you ever been homeless-or close?
I was curious what some of our Joy Junction guests felt and whether their experiences of homelessness were a little better in summer than winter. We asked a number of guests to tell us what they felt.
Here’s what we learned. One guy said it was better being homeless in the summer, because he was able to sleep by the creek.
“The water was a pleasant sound of comfort. Nights were warm, and it was nice looking at the stars. I always tried to think of ways to get out of being homeless.”
Sleeping outside in winter, this guest added, the cold “hindered” his sleep.
“I felt helpless without shelter. It was a life of misery. I starting feeling sorry for myself. The friends that I thought were my friends turned against one another. Sharing food was now a joke.”
Another man said that while there’s no best time to be homeless, water does become a more urgent need. Yes, and it’s because of that we give away thousands of bottles on our Lifeline of Hope mobile feeding unit which crosses Albuquerque daily.
He said the winter season provides different difficulties and opportunities.
“The public seems to be more aware and (giving) during this time. The holidays play a role in this. The coldest nights are the longest, and being very cold is crippling to some.”
That holiday theme was echoed by others.
One woman said she thinks being homeless in the winter is worse, as it is harder to keep your body temperature warm than stay cool in the summer.
She added that this is her first time being homeless, and surprisingly called it a “wonderful” experience for her family.
“I thank God for shelter. I don’t feel homeless. because I think of Joy Junction as my home.
She continued, “It gives families an opportunity to get back on their feet and into society. Most of all, I love that (Joy Junction) teaches about God.”
One guy said it’s hard to find a place to warm up in the depths of winter.
“In the summer,” he said, “you can find things to do to cool yourself off – places to swim, find shade or just go walk around in a cool store for a while.”
A woman agreed with him, saying that in winter there is always the fear of freezing to death and needing more clothes to keep warm.
She continued, “Sometimes it’s hard to find warmth because a lot of people don’t like the homeless. They’re usually not willing to help out. That’s why I’m so happy for Joy Junction.”
A heartrending comment came from another woman. She said, “I can remember being outside on the street during the winter months; my feet and hands were burning from the cold. I thought that my toes were going to fall off. It brought me to tears.”
Can you even come close to imagining being in that predicament?
One woman contended that in the winter, people can lose limbs and possibly their life due to the cold.
One guy said in general it’s just harder to survive in the winter, and because (the homeless) are also trying to hard to survive, others may “not be as helpful.”
He added, “There’s also a lot of sadness and depression during the winter months.”
Another person said having inadequate clothing is also difficult.
“(In the winter) it gets dark earlier in the day, and darkness brings its own dangers. Being homeless during this time also requires you to create your own warm shelter out of material that you find on the street.”
She added, “During the summer, there is usually a breeze that keeps everyone cool and a lot of shade downtown. It also cools off at night.”
One guy said he thinks summer homelessness is more difficult, adding body odor and hotter than usual tempers to the trials experienced by the homeless.
He said, “Homelessness is bad regardless of addiction. Thank God for Joy Junction.”
Writing on the Joy Junction Facebook page, Eliane said being homeless is scary no matter what season. “Each season comes with its own challenges. I don’t think it matters what time of the year it is. Homeless is just home-less.”
Returning to our guests, one woman made a lot of sense, commenting that homelessness is bad no matter the season. That notwithstanding, homeless in the winter can be more of a harsh reality with which to cope.
“It is much easier to escape the heat of summer than frozen ground,” she said. You may be able to find more resources in the winter, such as an overflow shelter and clothing drives.
No matter the season, being homeless is unpleasant. Thank you Joy Junction for making it a lot more pleasant. It’s greatly appreciated.”
My take is that being homeless in the summer is just as bad as the winter. However, with the kids being out of school and the never ending rush of family activities the homeless and the agencies they’re served by tend to get more readily forgotten during in the summer months.
With that in mind, please remember the homeless and the agencies that help make their lives a little more bearable during the summer months. We’re still here, and so are our many guests. Your gift could help save a life.