Do They Know It’s Christmas?

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The names and backstories of many homeless men are often left in the dark.
Maybe when I bother stopping by to hand them a dollar bill at times, I have done that simply to feel better about myself.

During a rainy winter period, the Korea Daily spent two weeks to cover the city’s misfits. We observed, approached, spoke to and treated their stories with delicacy. Perhaps that we still only enough to understand 10 percent of their struggles. Regardless, our perspective on them took a 180 degree change.

I once had an indifferent perspective towards homeless people. They seemed as normal as anyone, but when asked to help them, I wondered, “Why don’t they work?” Then came the usual judgment. They must be spending people’s money on buying drugs.

One lesson I learned through covering homeless people is just how I and many of us have such a strong prejudice against them. The common perception that most homeless people are either mentally ill or addicted to drugs are misconstrued facts. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s recent data revealed that only 30 percent of them in the city currently have or have experienced substance abuse.

Most of the homeless people I met over two weeks spent only a dollar or two in a day to buy food or coffee to stay warm. Homeless women often spend the dollar they have left for the day to buy coffee at a fast food restaurant just so that they could use the restroom, especially during their period.

What is so common and obvious to many of us are not a given to most of them. Their reality is brutal.

It is Christmas. Unlike years in the past, greeting my loved ones, listening a Christmas music and eating good food do not feel the same for me anymore. I keep thinking back to those who crouched in their tents to stay warm on a cold day.

Christmas is just another day for them. What is the proper way to help them to celebrate this day with more warmth?

By Soo Yeon Oh