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My Turn: It’s called homelessness; it feels like soullessness

Look at the person sitting next to you – your son, daughter, husband, wife, sister, brother, mother, father – and look at yourself. All of these people are potential homeless people.

Homelessness isn’t just about being without a stationary, solid and habitable structure. Homelessness is also a condition of the soul. Being without a structure to call home is but a symptom of a much larger problem. Mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, violence, domestic violence and loss of the spirit of community are but some of the deeper issues.

Those people you see walking downtown with a backpack on their backs and that lost and despairing look in their eyes are the people embodying these problems. We can talk about providing shelter, about where the money is going to come, about the possible causes of and solutions to this problem. We can talk about a lot of things, but those people with the backpacks aren’t hearing your talk. They are suffering, struggling with depression, using drugs and alcohol to pretend they feel better about the reality they live even if only for a couple of hours. Some fight a daily battle with themselves trying to find one solitary reason not to kill themselves today. Most are good people, some are not, as in the world that circles around them. We try not to see them, until we or someone we love becomes them.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to experience this problem firsthand. Yes, blessed. I have lived in this world of varying degrees of homelessness since 2009.

My journey has led me through severe depression, drug abuse, job loss and total loss of myself. I am blessed because it is suffering that allows me to see those people with the backpacks and know the struggle they face daily. Blessed because it will take people like me – people who have worn the backpack – to understand and eventually find a solution to this problem we call homelessness but feels like soullessness.

Each of us can begin this process by looking at those around us and asking if they are okay. And upon finding that they are not okay, we can ask ourselves what we can do right now to help lessen their suffering. This may not solve the problem, but it may begin the healing and it is within healing that the solution lies.

(Rebecca Curley lives in Concord.)

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