The homeless are often an invisible race. We pass by them on the street and look away. We hear the rattle of change in their cups, and we hear their plaintive cries for money, but most of us look distracted and keep walking.
Such cynicism is not without justification. There are those who just want money to feed their addictions. Others are not homeless at all, but instead exploit the generosity of others for financial gain.
However, there really are those in our own communities who suffer daily from poverty and neglect. One woman in the English city of Southport was forced to suffer a deep indignity due to her homelessness.
For an entire year, Karen Wallis slept in a public restroom. While speaking in front of the All Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness (APPGEH), Wallis admitted that she felt “safe” in the toilet and could use it to bathe herself.
Recently, seven years after her terrible experience, the 46-year-old Wallis returned to the public toilet that was once her home. Although she claimed to feel “horrible” and “unnerved” by the experience, Wallis, who is now married, employed, and has a home, is still an active participant in homeless charities across the United Kingdom.
While Wallis considers herself one of the “lucky ones,” her story is a poignant reminder that many millions are just one bad payday away from homelessness. Furthermore, Wallis fled to the public toilet after being assaulted while sleeping in a doorway.
Wallis is not the only homeless person to experience such violence. A report by the National Coalition for the Homeless released in 2014 states that 1,437 acts of violence were committed against homeless individuals between 1999 and 2013.
375 of these individuals died as a result of this violence. There are no estimates regarding how many incidents of violence have not been reported.
Featured image via BBC.