A Window Into Society

City lights in the night
A view of the night sky

I am a Georgia State University freshman that dorms on campus. I tend to go around the city on occasion passing various public areas. I chose my dorm as my space to analyze as I’m here most of the time, and I have a great view from the window. Given what I’m writing about, I ironically have a negative view of the homeless (though I do wish them well). I also chose the area due to the societal differences visible from the window.

A beige room littered with personal items. From clothes to bookbags and from belts to shoes, it is all out in the open. A dorm room. One roommate plays 2k ‘20 on his TV while watching a show on his phone. The other watches Netflix on his TV while eating some microwaved popcorn. This is all done with the room at a medium temperature of 70ºF. The light from each TV illuminating the posters on the walls and the half-full water bottles on their desks.  

From the five by four-foot window, a view of the highway is most noticeable. Four pervading overpasses and the main 12 or so lanes of the highway itself. As it is night, the stream of traffic is fairly moderate. Cars pass constantly through the night. Sometimes it fully stops and starts back up again, only to be thwarted by more and even more brake lights. Looking much lower (below the general view from the window), lies a small grouping of homeless people. They have set up their shelter in a stand of trees–as opposed to the others who reside under overpasses. Their degrees of shelter vary from a few sticks and a shirt to a giant blue tarp strung between a few of the trees. It may seem odd, but this is all within 100 feet of each other; unknown and unspoken of in society. There are many shelters, but few people are up and about this late in the day. The few that are, tend to be either leaving their shelter or heading back to it. More recently, however, most have left the area. This is likely due to the regularly lowering temperatures. Now the stand of trees lays mostly barren, with little trace of the many homeless who used to reside there. While very little remains there, it does show that they will persist on surviving throughout the harsh conditions of 50º or lower temperatures even if it means moving. To compare, both roommates can remain in the room for however long they like, and leave whenever with whatever clothes they wish to wear. That is one of the many unshared privileges between the college students here and the homeless people outside. Hell, even the countless drivers traversing the highway have more in the way of options than the homeless. With their car, they can go much further than the homeless could on foot and they could go anywhere that they truly wished with the only thing being needed is their want to get there and enough gas. Additionally, their cars protect the drivers from the elements unlike clothes ever could. While there are homeless shelters in Atlanta, they require state-issued IDs and are only open for a certain amount of hours meaning outside those hours the homeless are SOL.  

To look deeper, their behavior can indicate how far along they are lost, so to speak. Some just go around in their tattered clothes, others endlessly panhandle each passing day, and others even talk to themselves. Their behaviors could be the reason between people’s pity (or lack thereof) and care for them. For me personally, it is. I have a little bit of pity for the many homeless who lie on the sides of countless buildings in Atlanta. However, due to my upbringing in New Jersey, I have a strong resentment towards the homeless. That irony aside, my observations and new knowledge about them has swayed my logic in their favor. For instance, there are many homeless people I have seen who rather than the socially expected craziness, exhibit emotions and actions of bitterness, anger, and sorrow. Their behaviors can be sourced to their general dislike of society’s ways; of the constant ignoring from other human beings living in the exact same society. However, their behaviors can also tie to their lack of aid from anyone with the ability to do so such as programs from the government. This idea is the equivalent of the infamous quote, “don’t hate the player, hate the game.” In their mind, “the game” in question is society and their hate towards it — especially in urban areas — is near justifiable.

An active homeless shelter in Maryland
A homeless shelter in Maryland

From what I have observed and experienced, few urban areas have well resourced or designed programs for the homeless bar a public clinic. This is beyond evident from the countless homeless I have seen in Atlanta who wander the streets for hours upon hours, lie in obscure places for shelter, and the many who beg with tattered clothes and signs in both New York and New Jersey (Newark specifically). Personally, even with my feelings towards them, I believe that they should be getting oodles of funding (that many big urban cities squander on expansion) in the form of relief centers. States get various funds for the public welfare that go into either oversaturated areas or the wrong places. For example, many cities start construction on areas with little to no structural issues (such as weathered roads or buildings) adjacent to areas that actually need the construction. Additionally, I learned that while states tax billions from cigarette companies, most invest it back into those companies, furthering their (the cig. companies) damage on public health. If even half of those funds were split to this issue of homelessness in urban environments, many would be doing much better. Not funds just for places of shelter and food, but for places and or programs that allow them to get back up on their feet and return to society freely, and not remain ignored and forgotten among the people.

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