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 | By Laura Boronski

'We are people': The Voice of the Homeless

It’s time to speak the truth. I’m sick of the negative attitude toward the homeless population. There, I’ve said it.

I’ve been advocating for and working in the pro-life arena for decades. I’m a Catholic mother of eight and the youngest of 13, a singer, writer and speaker who loves God and his people. My work started with unborn children and helping women in crisis pregnancies, but it quickly and naturally branched out to other people in crisis: homeless women, teens, families and eventually the general homeless population in the Myrtle Beach area.

I have heard some comments recently regarding homelessness that really upset me to my core. “Aid for the homeless isn’t part of the pro-life movement,” or “They’ve thrown their lives away,” or this brilliant nugget: “Don’t help them or they won’t leave;” as if “they” are some kind of leper that we need to send away or ignore. What a concept: by helping people get their lives back and regain their independence, they would choose to remain homeless! I promise you, most of the men and women I see simply have no other choice right now. Many of us have the safety net of family or friends that can help us through a rough time. Many of “them” do not.

Having spoken to dozens upon dozens of my homeless brothers and sisters over the past couple years and hearing their vastly different stories I can tell you the majority of them did not “throw their lives away.” Rather, they had a series of events or traumas that led to homelessness, followed by another series of events or traumas. Then came the accompanying shame and embarrassment that kept them in the hopelessness that is homelessness and, in some cases, led to or exacerbated drug use.

Our brothers and sisters are in crisis, and it reminds me of something a wise man (my father) once told me: “If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re just a part of the problem.” The reality is, homelessness is everyone’s problem. Okay, Pop, I hear you!

So, I decided to compile a list of questions to ask a wide sample of the people experiencing homelessness. Out of the dozens of interviews conducted, 37% were in their 50s, 11% in their 40s, 33% in their 30s, 14% in their 60s and the rest were 20-somethings and teens. Yes, teens. My interviewees were from the various shelters and surrounding camps. My hope is that you hear the voices of these human persons and hopefully we begin to change the stigma surrounding the issue.

What caused your homelessness?

Some reasons cited were eviction; physical, mental or sexual abuse and sex trafficking; job loss; divorce, losing a roommate, the death of a partner or loved one; housing costs; disabilities, illnesses, alcoholism and drug use; or, most painfully, a combination of several of these. It’s staggering how many Americans are one catastrophic event away from becoming homeless. The current statistic is that 64% of us are one pay-check away from it.

The shelters at which I volunteer are New Directions shelters for men, women and families: Additionally, South Carolina has a statewide helpline to connect people to available resources: Dial 211.

What keeps/kept you homeless?

Many of those interviewed got jobs, but still couldn’t afford to rent an apartment. You can’t get a job without an address but can’t afford to get an address without a job. There’s also embarrassment and shame, or not knowing where to go for assistance. Often, women with children won’t reach out for help for fear they will have their child or children taken away.

One young mother lost her job, then her apartment. She was living in her car trying to make ends meet and was petrified to ask for help. Even though she found work while her child was in school, daycare was not an option due to the expense. She was barely making enough money to keep the car on the road.

She parked wherever she could to dodge the police for another night and feed her daughter and herself. She was sure that if she went for help her daughter would be taken away. Is this just? Is this Christian? I thank God for family shelters that keep parents and children together while everyone gets the help and guidance they need to get back on their feet.

What can we do to be a part of the solution?

Supporting local shelters that have rehab programs help willing participants receive drug rehabilitation, mental health services, counseling, job and parenting training. Amazingly, 50% of those helped achieved a good result and are no longer homeless. And, they turn around and volunteer their extra time with the shelters that assisted them because they know what it’s like to need and ask for help.

Every county should have this kind of shelter with rehab options available. How much more cost effective would it be than treating a person at the ER and sending him or her back out to the streets with no resources or training?

The good news is that we have soup kitchens and outreach programs through churches, communities and Catholic Charities of South Carolina. Volunteers from Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati Church in Myrtle Beach regularly volunteer at New Directions in Horry County. New Directions offers drug rehab and counseling, access to job training, childcare, parenting classes, clothes, food and even showers, laundry and meals for those not in the shelter. In fact, one homeless man I spoke to said that “if you can’t find food out here, you’re not looking.”

Rehab for Christians

Our brothers and sisters in crisis need much more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a pair of gloves. Let’s be a part of the solution. This starts with how we perceive our friends, really our family members in Christ, who are homeless so that more of us are willing to volunteer, support or champion efforts to rehabilitate our neighbors.

Think of it as rehab for our attitudes and how we respond to the needs of others. I will continue to do my part through volunteering at these great facilities and raising awareness in any way I can. If we all pool our knowledge and our efforts, we can make a difference and help someone get their life back.

The men and women I talked to have taught me so much, and I continue to volunteer and to learn. Let’s all do better, do something to help people become independent, working members of our communities again. By supporting local shelters and outreach programs, we all can be a concrete part of the solution.

Laura Boronski is a speaker, singer, songwriter, certified functional nutrition counselor and outspoken defender of life who lives with her husband, Jeff, and five of their eight children in Conway. Visit