Hitting the streets at 15 was the least of my worries. I had lost all hope, all connection to and all faith in the society around me. I remember sleeping in a parkade on a piece of cardboard when I was 16, waking up periodically when a businessperson would uncomfortably walk around me. I was shocked and angry every time: I had no clue how a person could walk by such a tragedy without so much as a word (Book, 2015).
How is it that people with resources, homes and cash in their pockets could walk by and say nothing—not even acknowledge Derek’s existence? This is where stereotypes, stigma and discrimination come in. It is widely known that pervasive stereotyping of homeless people—and indeed, of most low-income people—exists. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona (2014), recently said that “common prejudices often stereotype persons living in poverty as lazy, irresponsible, indifferent to their children’s health and education, dishonest, undeserving and can even paint them as criminals” (p.5). As mentioned in the foreword of this book, poverty and homelessness are often assumed to be the result of bad choices—or fundamental character flaws—rather than things like unemployment, relationship breakdown or childhood and adult experiences of trauma.