Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Religion Taboo Interfering With Addressing a Social Problem

Many of you may know that I am somewhat of a homelessness activist. Over the years I have worked in shelters, soup kitchens, and literacy programs. I have taken homeless people into my home.

Lately, in trying to build empathy toward homeless people I've been writing some pretty frank pieces about what being homeless is like. I've pulled from my own experiences as well as my interactions with other people who are or have been homeless. I've dug into some pretty painful areas to give humanity and a face to homeless people, to show the reality and humanity of people simply in a bad spot.

But there's an aspect that I feel I'm not so free to write about. I touched on it briefly and altogether too lightly in Some Reasons People Become Homeless, but not in any depth and not with any real power. I'm a bit afraid to probe this aspect because I know that people will be cruel to me about it. Even as shallowly as I've touched on this aspect of the homelessness problem, I've already gotten some nasty mail. I know it's going to be painful but it's like a sore tooth I just can't stop fiddling with.

The taboo topic is the relationship of religious belief to homelessness in teens and young adults. If you doubt that there is one, consider this - as many as 42% of homeless teens and young adults are homosexual as compared to less than 5% of the general population. According to one study 26% of homosexual teens who come out to their parents are asked to leave the home.

You can read more about this phenomenon in An Epidemic of Homelessness.

If parents are not discarding their glbtq teens for religious beliefs then why are they?

Religious beliefs aside from religiously derived homophobia also impact teen homelessness. I only have anecdotal evidence for other religiously motivated discarding of teens so far, consisting of stories told to me by homeless teens and young adults. I recall a teenage boy of middle eastern descent who confided that he had become homeless because he'd decided to explore the Christian faith. He was completely blindsided by their decision to evict him from their home because he'd thought they were pretty laid back and reasonable. Other teens I met held Pagan beliefs counter to their Christian parents' beliefs which resulted in their homelessness. I also know of one case where suspected (but not actual) premarital sex resulted in a teen's expulsion from the home.

As you probably guessed I'm winding myself up to write something about this topic, something that will catch a lot of flack and abuse. I am well aware that sometimes I'm more thin-skinned than I ought to be so I'm just dipping my toes into sharkless water until I have all my studies and ducks in a row to stand up to full on attacks.

Wish me luck!


Project Savior said...

I wish you luck,
Homelessness is a scary thing. I was semi-homeless once, I was going to college and my mom lived a ways a away so I ended up sleeping wherever I could for the semester.
Then with the financial meltdown I almost got kicked out on the street. So anything I can do to help you keep anyone from being homeless let me know.

Kara E. Sherman said...

Good luck!

Thank you for tackling this subject. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

D said...

I was homeless for two years myself. I'd hope some idiot would give me crap for saying a big part of homelessness is religious discrimination.

Mystics treat everyone who doesn't agree with them like shit. Christian bosses fire folks...illegally...for not believing in their pervert god like they do. Ostracism is the oldest form of passive/aggressive attacks.

The idea is to inflict enough suffering on non-believers that they'll succumb and surrender.

Fuck 'em. I'd rather sleep on a park bench than be evil like they are.

Seth said...

If there is reason to believe that a significant portion of homeless people are homeless because they are ostracized for religious related issues (homophobia, premarital sex, adopting a new belief system), then that is kind of awesome from the vantage point that "homeless people are whack in the head but can't get into mental institutions" which is something I hear a bit.

Specifically, it would be more interesting for me to work with homeless people since those issues are issues I relate to even though I'm in a home.

FYI, I don't know crap about the circumstances surrounding homelessness. All I know is that it sucks.

ThatAtheistChick said...

Good luck and thank you for trying to help people out of the goodness of your heart. That's the difference between someone like you and a religious person. A religious person will only help the homeless, if they convince themselves there's a reward in the afterlife.