Yesterday, on my way home, a man got into the train (one I was in) and started asking for “help” (money), a common scene in NYC . He was young, well dressed up and carrying a backpack. The train was still in the station with door opened while two undercover cops came and warned him of begging. Their argument was that the man did not look like a homeless person so was not allowed to bother people in the train. He just said ok and kept quiet. But as soon as the train moved on he started begging yelling at cops. His point was “he is a young man but homeless, unlike others he takes care of himself and likes to keep himself clean away from the dirty smell of urine and sweat. And he was questioning people that is it necessary for him to keep himself dirty and wear torn out clothes in order to prove his homelessness.” Most people just ignored him. Few women standing close to him told him not to start again because he was not allowed to do so by the cops. Then he kept quiet.
I found this as a serious sociological issue. With our social conception of a homeless person it is hard for us to believe him. From any point he did not look like a homeless. After all he was ordinary looking and well dressed. I think his question is very genuine and he could be a homeless. But at the same time other question arises like if he is homeless how can he afford those nice clothes, backpack, and where does he go to take shower? Is it affordable for him to maintain cleanliness with the money he gets from begging?
Since we are used to seeing a homeless man (usually old) in his/her dirty clothes with smell and all his/her belingings in a cart, it is hard to change our mindset. We can not believe a young man in his twenties and well dressed to be a homeless.