Complacency limits assistance

Complacency limits assistance

Blake Bertram

If you had told me two years ago that I was going to be homeless, I would have laughed at you, and then promptly worried about my family’s financial situation. Although they had been struggling for quite some time to make ends meet, their struggles had nothing to do with the reason I was a homeless youth.

In 2016, I moved in with a close friend’s family to ease some of the stress on my own family. A year later, I began attending school again with the intention of graduating and obtaining a GED.

At the small, non-traditional high school that was equipped to specifically help students that were struggling, I was approached by a social worker, let’s call her Robin, about my housing situation. Apparently, I was considered a “homeless youth.” I remember wondering, “How could I possibly be classified as homeless? I have a roof over my head, food on the table and a loving household.”

The attitude I was experiencing at this time is what I now dub the “I’m fine” mentality: the state of mind where your pride gets in the way of allowing you to accept the help that you need.

I was firmly under the opinion that to be homeless, one has to be struggling at an extreme degree—which I wasn’t. Although I had no income at the time and could have certainly used a way to support the family I was living with, I was convinced that I could take care of myself and that someone else was more deserving of the help than me.

It wasn’t until Robin introduced me to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 did I realize that she didn’t deem me “homeless,” but that the federal government did. Essentially, the act declares that a youth sharing housing due to hardship, or loss of housing, is “homeless,” and since I was estranged from my family, I was technically eligible for assistance from the school.

But, I wasn’t the sole holder of the “I’m fine” outlook. Robin explained to me that many youths tend to refuse help because they insist that “it isn’t that bad,” or that, proverbially, they’re “fine.” Someone who is homeless doesn’t always follow this stereotype, and classifying youths as “homeless” can be both generalized and specific.

A big part of the “I’m fine” mentality is how society treats people that do complain about their issues.  We condition others around us to settle for what they have and to hide their problems. Of course, this isn’t healthy. We’ve all heard people tell others to “be grateful,” like telling a picky eater to be grateful for their food because “there are people struggling in Africa that would love to have this food.”

Yet, people have the habit of refusing help because they’re “not struggling as bad as someone else,” or that they can “handle” themselves. To fix this, we need to learn to compromise with others and offer empathetic solutions.

I wish I hadn’t waited so long to accept assistance from Robin, because when I finally did, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. She offered me experiences and fostered insights that I would have never received otherwise.

As time went on, and I became more comfortable with the association of homelessness, I realized that allowing myself to accept the situation granted me a certain confidence that I would have otherwise lacked.

If someone you know is struggling and refuses to accept the help available to them, reach out and encourage them to take that step. Fight against the “I’m fine” mentality.