I am a 40-year-old female who has been homeless for two years. I want to address the hate-filled looks of disgust I get from people, as if I’ve done something to personally offend them – that look that makes people grab their child’s arm so they don’t get too close to me for fear that I am going to bleed my homelessness on them.

A homeless father of two carries his belongings outside the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles. “The backpack I carry is full of holes and dirty, but it has everything I own in it,” a Maine woman says. Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

I am a human. I am not contagious. I am not going to rob people. I am not violent or wish to cause anyone harm. I am a human, who doesn’t have access to a shower very often, nor can I buy myself clothes. The backpack I carry is full of holes and dirty, but it has everything I own in it. It’s already been stolen twice and I’m grateful it still zips up. 

Let me get back to that look. It’s heartbreaking because some people don’t do it out of hate but from fear of what they don’t know. Just because you say “hello” to me doesn’t mean I will expect money, a ride or even want you to take me home.

I’ve been robbed and beaten, but that look I get is the most hurtful thing I’ve experienced through this struggle. 

I want people to be mindful that if they look at someone struggling, like me, they won’t disappear. If they don’t know that look I speak of, I hope they never do. 

I hope this helps people to be more cautious about that look.

Nicole Alder

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