How Relational Poverty Relates to Homelessness

When you think of poverty, you might picture someone living with very little, perhaps living on the streets, just barely surviving off of whatever resources they can get. But what about relational poverty? Relational poverty is rampant and affects even the wealthiest of people — it could even affect you. 

Relational poverty refers to being poor in community. It’s lacking a support system. Anyone can experience relational poverty, especially as our world focuses more on digital communication and less on personal communication. We’ve become increasingly reliant on social media and other forms of communication, so much so that we’re lacking the community and conversations that we once had. 

But relational poverty is compounded when coupled with homelessness. 

Imagine finding yourself in the darkest, hardest days of your life with no one to turn to for support. How would you make it? Imagine losing your job, losing your home, and having nowhere to turn. If you didn’t have family or friends to fall back on, where would you go? What would you do?

The reality is that many people experience homelessness because they lack the community and support that all humans so desperately need. 

Some individuals grew up in broken homes where family was never prioritized. Many experienced unimaginable trauma. Some were kicked out at a young age because of the choices they made. Some were even separated from their families when their parents didn’t have enough money to provide for them. Plenty of family members and friends also turn away from loved ones when they find that they’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, leaving these people alone and lacking the support they need.

Whatever the reason, our neighbors are not only experiencing homelessness, but relational poverty, all around us. 

That’s why acknowledging those experiencing homelessness can make a world of difference for them. Smiling at them, talking to them, finding out their name and sharing yours, and taking time to hear their story can be some of the only community they’ve experienced in a long time. And community can help them feel human again. 

When we find ourselves face to face with those experiencing homelessness, do we turn away or offer to have a conversation? Do we ignore them or do we listen to their story? You may be surprised by the power that community can have.

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