Being a long time city dweller, I have had enough direct encounters with the homeless population. To compound this knowledge, I have also had a few extended stints of not-quite-voluntary “urban camping” myself over the course of my life.
I suppose that it can be considered to be some sort of educational advantage, in striving to understand the issues surrounding homelessness, that I have looked at the situation from both sides of the fence. I'm at a loss to determine if I feel any deep sense of empathy with other homeless people from my experience, and yet I can't feel absolutely sure that I would not end up right back on the street again someday.
From what I've witnessed over time, both from a homeless and sheltered perspective, personality types and traits run the gamut regardless of one's place in society. For instance, I can focus upon the types of folks that I encounter on a regular basis moving through the alley behind my kitchen window, who poke through the garbage and recycling bins at the apartment complex just across the way.
Most folks seem to be reasonably considerate and don't make a mess or much noise with their scavenging, and are considerate enough to close the bin lids and leave things like they had practically never been there. Others go out of their way to fuck shit up, slamming anything they can, scattering debris everywhere, and occasionally shitting and pissing whenever and wherever the moment works for them, and sometimes defecating right in front of the gate where I go in and out of my home each day. The range of civilized behavior (of lack thereof) doesn't seem any different to me in relative scale in comparison to people in a sheltered lifestyle. It's just that the daily routines and challenges required for daily survival happen to be radically different on many fronts.
As far as I can tell, folks that I have encountered who hold the most contempt for the homeless tend to have had the least need to struggle to survive. They tend to complain about freeloaders but also tend to be beneficiaries of trust funds, parent-funded educations, inherited homes, family owned businesses (or jobs acquired through nepotism and patronage favors), and /or “opportunities” that could easily be defined as a free ride.
The only solution to homelessness is actual permanent housing. Instead of the fairly inhumane strategy of warehousing people into human corrals, there must be a genuine effort to expand the level of actual residence to permanently shelter those who are homeless and not by personal choice. Once the wheels are rolling to house people who are circumstantially in need, the ability to concentrate on those who are unable to cope with sufficiently taking care of themselves, just lingering around out there and messed up, can be sharpened and improved.
Nowadays more than ever, the situation of homeless individuals can not be pigeonholed, much less dismissed as a mere nuisance or hindrance.