Remy Reya - 2021 Journalism Senior Colloquium
From Margo Bresnen
People experiencing homelessness face plenty of barriers to stable employment and housing. Many also have to overcome a feeling of shame—a sense that they might not be worthy of a job or even housing because of internalized stigma and disappointment at their living situation. On the path to stability, some in the homeless community find dignity and purpose in giving back. Although often characterized only as dependent beneficiaries of social services, many unhoused people engage in volunteer work and informal giving that might belie their own need. These pursuits can function as crucial stepping-stones for those who want to earn stable employment and housing by providing stability, a caring community, and critical housing resources and job opportunities; the daunting burden of judgement often melts away in the face of generosity. But they are also actively beneficial to the housed community. Over two months in 2019, I followed along with individuals experiencing homelessness in California who supported others and built community even amid challenging personal circumstances. For some of them, giving back is not a privilege; it's a duty that transcends status and even need.