Think they don’t notice? Why Eye Contact with Homeless People Matters
"Eye contact is something most people take for granted, but for homeless individuals, it's a rare occurrence. Often, passersby choose to ignore them, looking anywhere but at the person they've deemed invisible. In fact, it's common for people to look at their phones or billboards to avoid making eye contact with a homeless person. It's essential to remember that homeless people are just normal individuals without a home, trying to survive in difficult circumstances. Making eye contact with them is a safe, easy, and free way to acknowledge their presence and can go a long way in preventing dehumanization.
Withholding eye contact might not seem like a big deal, but the cumulative effect of multiple people ignoring homeless individuals can be damaging. This treatment can lead homeless people to feel like ghosts, unable to fully participate in the world around them. By engaging in eye contact, we acknowledge our shared humanity and the broader societal issues that contribute to homelessness. This can be overwhelming, but it's an important step in recognizing the individuals affected by it.
If making eye contact seems challenging, you can start by learning about the lives and experiences of homeless people through stories or videos. This can help break down stereotypes and build understanding. Seeing a homeless person as fully human and deserving of the same safety and security as anyone else is crucial for promoting change in the way society views and addresses homelessness. So, next time you encounter a homeless person, resist the urge to look away or check your phone, make eye contact, acknowledge their humanity, and remember that they are ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges in their quest for survival."