Homelessness - Trauma

"An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, 'Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.'" - Luke 9:46-48

In Jesus' day, children weren't seen as having much worth, but rather as a burden to their families, at least until they could contribute in some way. Yet Jesus upsets this cultural norm with his words in Luke 9, setting children on the same level as himself - and God.  Today, many cultures place a higher value on children, seeing in them a limitless future. Yet children are still vulnerable - to malnourishment, disease, abuse, and neglect.

The roads that lead to homelessness are many, and the reasons people walk them are just as varied. But a good number of those roads begin with trauma - childhood abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual), domestic violence, or post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a study in Massachusetts found that 92% of homeless women had experienced severe physical or sexual assault at some point in their lives. And a 2003 survey showed that one-quarter of homeless mothers had been physically abused in the past year.

On a different front, homeless veterans who have experienced the trauma of war often have a difficult time reintegrating into 'normal,' everyday life. According to Volunteers of America, one of every five homeless adults is a veteran. On any given night in this country, as many as 62,000 veterans have no place to call home.1 In addition to the trauma they experienced, 45% now have a mental illness, and up to 70% struggle with addiction.2

Questions to Consider:

  • Why do veterans make up such a large portion of the adult homeless population?
  • Why might childhood trauma eventually lead to homelessness?
  • How can domestic violence be a barrier to stable housing?
  • How might trauma be a catalyst for other issues like mental health/addiction?
  • What aspects of Sylvia's story resonate with you?

Additional Resources:


1National Alliance to End Homelessness, "Data Point: Veteran Homelessness in the United States in 2013"
2SAMHSA, "Current Statistics on the Prevalence and Characteristics of People Experiencing Homelessness in the United States"