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Blog: What does a homeless person look like?

Added on Monday, March 2, 2015

Written by Bret Piekarski, a St. Cloud State University student who recently toured the St. Cloud Salvation Army with his class

The question came up in class “What does a homeless person look like?”

When I think of a homeless person it’s usually a man, gray hair and a bushy beard, ripped, old and dirty clothes, who is sitting on the sidewalk and begging for money. A lot of my classmates also assumed the same thing. Once everyone gave their idea of what a homeless person looked like, my professor gave the story of how his house burned down, which left him homeless. It’s something I would have never thought of or considered. While sitting there, it hit me and I looked at the big picture and realized it could really be anyone, and how they look or present themselves has nothing to do with it.

Getting the opportunity to go to the St. Cloud Salvation Army really opened my eyes to what goes on beyond what the general public sees. I always knew about The Salvation Army and that they accept clothing donations and food, but I never knew about the extent they go to with helping people.

As I walked into the doors it felt just like walking into a hotel for me, but as soon as I got beyond the lobby, I noticed what the place is really about. There was a room just full of bread donations, a chapel for prayer, and rooms on two floors to support more than 60 families. I was shocked to see how much I didn’t know. At first it was kind of weird in a way, because everyone was staring at us and talking to each other about us. But the image of how I thought they would look was gone immediately. Almost everybody had on good clothes and no rips in them. A few had beards, but there were a lot of clean shaven guys.

Having the chance to talk with the tour guide and have his input about what they try to do to get people to succeed in life just amazed me. I don’t know how else I would have been able to get that same experience if we didn’t go on this field trip. I personally think it was worth the class time just to get people out and see what is going on that most people have no idea about or even know where the place is located. From my point of view going into criminal justice, it just shows that you can’t judge a book by its cover right away because you don’t know their situation or where they have come from.

Learn about the services provided by the St. Cloud Salvation Army.