Homeless Couples: We Found Love in a Hopeless Place
Photo by mali maeder
When you think of the 235,000 Canadians who experience homelessness every year, a story of romance probably doesn’t come to mind. Many people have the misconception that homeless people don’t experience romantic attraction or need the emotional support of a partner.
But, it’s important to remember that homeless people are just like everyone else — they meet and fall in and out of love, date people, and support each other. Thinking that people without a home don’t date is just one of the many myths around homelessness.
Why Do Homeless People Date?
The answer is very simple – because humans need a social connectedness and have a desire for emotional and physical intimacy. We all need emotional warmth and the assurance that we are not alone in the world. To put it simply, love is a basic human need and everyone deserves to love and to be loved in return.
Life on the streets can be lonely and dangerous. And for people experiencing homelessness, having somebody to love and trust can play a huge role in the quality of their daily lives. It can help them feel safer, less lonely and worthy. A partner can help keep them company on the street and provide body warmth on cold nights outdoors.
If either individual experiences substance abuse, they can help walk each other through the difficult recovery process. As an organization that accommodates couples experiencing homelessness, we have heard from many of our clients that meeting a significant other has contributed to their sobriety.
During this tough time of being homeless and in and out of shelters, their relationships remind them that they are valuable, important and loved.
How Do Homeless People Meet their Significant Other?
There are a variety of ways that homeless people can meet the people they start dating. We see a lot of couples who have been together long before they became homeless. For example, Jay and Allie, met before they were homeless at a concert in California.
Others meet on the street, in recovery clinics, or at shelters. This happened to Vanessa and Nicholas, they met at Fred Victor’s 24 Hour Respite during the bitterly cold winter.
What Struggles Do Couples Experiencing Homelessness Face?
Couples experiencing homelessness face many challenges such as accessing shelter and housing, and maintaining intimacy in their daily lives. Not only is physical intimacy a challenge but emotional intimacy as well.
For housed couples, activities like cooking together, going out to dinner and movies, or staying in and watching TV are very common. However, for couples experiencing homelessness, this is only a dream.
Unfortunately, not all shelters can accommodate couples. Some shelters are for women or men only, and some can accept both but cannot accommodate them together in the same room. There is definitely a great need for shelters that can accommodate couples.
What Can We Learn?
It doesn’t matter whether one is homeless or not, we all need a human connection, love and to be loved in return.
As you can see, there are many types of relationships people can experience while homeless. Unfortunately, our society often unconsciously (or consciously) expects homeless people to be alienated by themselves.
As such, not enough shelters accommodate couples, which can force many couples apart for days, weeks, or months. It encourages homeless people to choose the streets over shelters so they can be with their significant other.
This endangers lives during freezing weather. Luckily, at Fred Victor we offer both individual and couples’ rooms at several of our locations.