Trading Places

Have you ever taken the time to wonder what the homeless really have to experience on a daily basis? I know that you pass them daily as you go to and fro, on you way here and there. You may even stop to give them a couple dollars or offer them a cup of coffee in the morning, but what else have you done?

Try putting yourself in their position. I can hear some of my readers now saying that’s crazy, why would anyone ever want to do something like that? Living on the streets as a homeless person.

A gentleman by the name of Brian Seeley did just that. During last years summer break, Seeley, a ministry student at Southeastern University, set out to gain a better understanding of what life is like as a homeless person.

Seeley slept under the stars, ate with other homeless people at undisclosed camps in the woods, and showered at shelters. Along the way, Seeley also became friends with many of the people he met on the streets, including a homeless gentleman, (lets just call him Booker.)

[img_assist|nid=300|title=A Homeless Encampment|desc=Photo courtesy of the Associated Press|link=none|align=center|width=640|height=417]

Booker became homeless after he lost his job in construction during the economic downturn. He now lives in a vacant shanty somewhere in Polk County. Seeley spent time with Booker and even shared meals with him.

“My first impression was, not a good idea,” Booker said.

“The friends I have made aren’t any different than I am. The ‘us-and-them’ mentality has been broken in my mind,” Seeley said.

According to a survey conducted by the Homeless Coalition of Polk County, there were more than 800 homeless people in the area in 2009.

At the end of the summer, Seeley went back to school and once again had a roof over his head. However, he won’t forget what he learned about life on the streets.

Today, Seeley is working towards his goal of opening two homeless shelters in Polk County. According to Seeley, these shelters will not only offer residents a place to stay, but also job training and substance abuse counseling.

More importantly, Seeley believes, will be his ability to offer a sense of understanding of how homeless people live as they attempt to have a second chance at a normal life.

There is no way to truly understand the daily life of the homeless unless you’ve actually been there yourself. Some people believe that “it can’t be all that hard, there are no responsibilities living on the streets.” However, the responsibilities that the homeless face just to survive, whether it be summer or winter, is a burden that most would not want.

When you’re homeless you become an outcast within the community. Most people walk by you as if you have a contagious disease. I’m sure you’ve seen that look, you may even have given it yourself a time or two in the past. Could you just imagine how you would feel getting that look on a daily basis; over and over again just because you ask a passerby for a little pocket change to get something to eat? Could you handle it?

Seeley has shown that not everybody is willing to just throw their arms up in the air and give up when things start to look bleak. Too bad there are not many more Seeleys out there.

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