“Rough Sleeper” Shares
Strategies of Over 20 Years
On August 30, 2014, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered featured a story, “One Woman’s Lessons From Living on the Street” which profiles Susan in Washington DC who has experienced street homelessness for almost 20 years.
What experts call a “rough sleeper”, Susan chooses to sleep outside at night avoiding shelters. Among the challenges she faces are finding food, securing a safe place to sleep every night and the threat of sexual violence and abuse.
Susan has learned many lessons over the years including:
- Don’t Look Like A Woman – This often means wearing multiple, bulky layers;
- Act Crazy – This behavior may help ensure that you are left alone
- Pick Your Spot Carefully – Stay close to large public buildings and
- Partner with a Man – This often means more specifically a homeless veteran.
But all of these lessons come with “strings attached.” Regarding partnering with man, Jim O’Connell, President of Boston Health Care for the Homeless “Has seen this dynamic many times. This can be physical and sexual. ‘And then the issue of domestic violence becomes a really paramount issue,’ O’Connell explains.
He says it’s nearly impossible to pull homeless women away from abusive relationships. The women prefer the predictability of one man’s violence to the unpredictability of street violence.”
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