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An Atheist View on Homelessness

Updated on January 3, 2016
Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa Shay was homeless for over a year in her youth; it lead to her activism involving homelessness. She thinks, feels, and has opinions.

A homeless person trying to stay warm and out of sight
A homeless person trying to stay warm and out of sight | Source

What do atheists think of the homeless?

I know this may seem like an odd subject but apparently, there are people who want to know. I saw this search coming up over and over again when analyzing the search terms that had caused readers to land both on my articles and editorials on the topic of atheism and on the topic of homelessness.

I'm not really sure why people search for what non-believers think of people living without homes. I suspect it is because there are some specific religion-based views on the subject and there are religious people who consider atheism to be a religion. Perhaps they not only consider absence of religion a religion but one with specific teachings on the subject of poverty.

Whatever the reason people search for this information, I have written some of my thoughts on the matter below. They are not the views of a group or ideology but simply my own. However, since they are based on observation and empathy, chances are that many non-theists feel the same way. Please keep in mind, though, that chances are that many other atheists don't feel the same way not only because other people have different experiences and have made different observations but also because religious attitudes and practices often remain intact when belief in God no longer exists.

Dollar signs and dead presidents, it's all about money.
Dollar signs and dead presidents, it's all about money. | Source

Homelessness is usually the result of not having enough money to afford lodging

Whatever the cause of not having sufficient funds to pay for housing, this is usually the reason people don't have homes. I know this sounds pretty simple but in capitalistic societies it usually is that simple. Remember that simple isn't the same as easy.

Sometimes very severe mental illness also causes homelessness in people who have plenty of money but lack of money is a far more common cause.

Keep in mind that these are my views and opinions only. Atheists don't have one monolithic opinion on anything except the existence of God.

A pretty homeless child smiling
A pretty homeless child smiling | Source

It is not an indicator of personal character

Some (very few, I hope) religious people view homelessness as a punishment from God for being a bad person. Since it can be solved with money, it seems highly unlikely that it is an indicator of personal character. Give a terrible person a million dollars and he'd still be a terrible person. The reverse is also true, take away a good person's money and he'd still be a good person. Anything that can be fixed with money isn't a character flaw, in my opinion.

Some people may claim homelessness indicates stupidity, but, while ignorance or lack of intelligence can cause it, it's just a single cause out of many causes, not a characteristic of all homeless people.

Most people lose their homes because they are overwhelmed by the circumstances they find themselves in. Since those circumstances are often things beyond their control such as parental abandonment, war injuries, disabilities, severe mental illness, or losing a job when a company closes or downsizes, it seems extremely unlikely that character is to blame.

Also, since around fifty percent of American people without homes are children, it's clear to me the character of those children has little to do with their poverty.

The Phenomenon of Foster Care and Poverty - Aging Out of Foster Care Onto the Streets

When foster children in America reach seventeen or eighteen, some of them are kicked out of the house the second the support checks stop, sometimes partway through a school year. Without normal parental support, many of those young adults become homeless.

My So-Called Emancipation: From Foster Care to Homelessness for California Youth
My So-Called Emancipation: From Foster Care to Homelessness for California Youth

Children in foster care in America routinely age out of foster care and get dumped straight onto the streets with no preparation for life.


It is not some God's method of making people more humble, better people

A few believing people have told me that homelessness is actually good for the person who is experiencing it because suffering brings them closer to God. Since most people end up emotionally scarred and often physically damaged as well from the time they spent on the street it doesn't seem like a very effective method of making someone a better person. Since I'm an atheist I don't think there's a deity meddling with homeless peoples' lives because I'd have to think a God were real for that to be the case.

It is an issue human beings need to work on

I think it is important for people to help each other so life can be better. I don't believe in an afterlife so I believe the kind thing to do is to help each other have better lives in the here-and-now. Homeless people are people suffering and pushed outside many of society's protections so I think it is important people are made aware of them as people just as human and deserving as themselves.

So that's my view of homelessness as an atheist

Some notes about the guestbook below

If you came to this page because you were searching for atheist views on homelessness, please briefly explain why you thought there were a set of beliefs regarding homelessness that nonbelievers have in common or what it was that motivated your search. As this guestbook gets comments clarifying why people search for "atheist views on homelessness" I will add more answers to this page if it doesn't have answers that could help those searchers understand or get the information they need.

If you did not find this page via that keyword search, feel free to comment as well.

All comments will be moderated. Comments with even mild swearing will not be published nor will comments with irrelevant links. This is also not the place for evangelism or proselytizing. While the topic is atheism, the page's purpose is to answer the question of what atheist views are regarding homelessness or homeless people. Off-topic comments will not be published.

Please Post Here If You Found This Page by Searching for "Atheist Views on Homelessness" or Something Similar

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    • profile image

      barrierbreaker 3 years ago

      Thank you for this needed article -- I shared an earlier one you wrote on homelessness on my personal FB page, and it was well received; people found it helpful. One thing Christians found surprising is that many people were required to sit through a sermon to get food or housing. One question that's come around -- I know homeless people I've met as an atheist have told me that they don't want to have to pretend to be someone they aren't. I would write about that, as there doesn't seem to be an extensive article on it...but you have much more experience and I'd be interested in what you had to say...

      In any case, thank you for this post and the rest of your awesome work -- I'm excited to have found the second person to "follow" on this site.

    • Lerys profile image

      Lerys 3 years ago

      It is alarming to see how ignorant most believers are of the fact that atheists aren't any less kind and compassionate than they are.

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      It was a different article entirely, written about six or seven years earlier than this one. At the time, the people would have had to do a bit of investigation to know I was an atheist.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Now I understand why you got undeserved negative feedback in a hub about homelessness (if this is the hub you were referring too in the forum post about topics that got negative feedback. You discussed atheism. I really appreciated the callout capsule where you said atheists do not have a monolithic view on anything besides the existence of God.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I merely found you and your site, the same way I find any cruising the streets of our Community.

      Homelessness is a rampant social ill. Shamefully, here in the alleged greatest Country of all, it is any especially egregious issue. As an individual, I've done whatever I can, whenever I have an opportunity to help.....City Mission & Soup Kitchen Volunteer, Literacy Volunteer and my share of work and/or contributions to charities. Admittedly, this is not enough.

      In any event, I don't see homelessness as having any connection whatsoever to religions, or believers or atheists, or any particular type or group of individuals.

      Empathy and compassion, generosity & philanthropy are human traits/actions. We either are or we are not......can or cannot....respond or do not. IMHO, it's this simple.

      Extremely well-written hub....and BTW, Welcome to HP. You are definitely a welcomed asset......Up++++tweeted & pinned

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      It's always good to hear different viewpoints because different people seldom have the same blind spots. Thank you for sharing your insight.

    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      Homelessness is such a complex topic--there are so many issues at play. Unfortunately, drugs, alcohol, and mental illness can be a common factor, and often people don't know where to go to get help, not to mention that medical or psychological care can be expensive.

      Then there's the whole issue of abuse, many children and women end up homeless because of unrest in the home. Sometimes the streets look safer than the home. My heart breaks for those who don't feel safe in their own home.

      This life is hard. Unexpected things happen. One minute everything is going well, and the next, you're injured, lost your job, the creditors are calling, and your house is being foreclosed. I really believe that there are honest and good people who end up homeless because a series of events, outside of their control, have occurred.

      I grew up middle class, but after college have had a hard time securing housing. I lived with a friend on a drug infested block, in a home full of abuse and other unsafe issues, I ended up sleeping in my car because it felt safer. I was injured at work, and due to the downgrade in pay, had to give up my apartment and move in with a family member. Not everyone is so lucky to have someone who will take them in. I totally understand how homelessness, even for the middle class, can creep in quickly.

      I think we have to be careful, when addressing homelessness, not to point fingers too quickly. Yes, there are some who are homeless because of a lack of work ethic or because of a life shattering vice, but that is not every case. We need to look at the whole person, and understand that even their addictions may have been brought about because of using a substance to try to heal their pain. The drug addict, 17 year old run away, might be trying to fill a hole produced by abuse from a foster home situation.

      I am not an Atheist and believe that God is loving and compassionate. I do not believe that homelessness is a sign of his punishment. He sends good things on the Godly and the ungodly. Circumstance isn't always a sign of his favor or disfavor. It can be caused by someone's own actions or just an outcome of living in a world where evil co-exists with goodness.

      I wonder if the searches you've been getting are for atheists who want help from a non-christian organization, since may of the homeless non-profits are christian based.

    • OMENA777 profile image

      OMENA777 4 years ago

      Homelessness is not Gods planning. We are all connected by one powerful energy of being human. Indifference is the energy that separates us and that begins with the way we think of our fellow human beings. I also believe that homelessness represent the homelessness that many human beings feel in their soul . I have empathy for homeless people for their journey is long and hard. None of us are immune to becoming homeless. I am not an Atheist, nor am I a judge of peoples journey on this planet. My wish is that all homeless people find peace and a home where they can rest their weary soul.

    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 4 years ago

      There is more than enough to go around in our society. It is horrible to think of people stuck in a rut that they cannot get out of. You can't force someoen into a shelter or home, but trying to help to provide the options and support to allow people to get out of these tough spots should be a societal responsibility.