Student Addresses Homelessness Issue

Each year grade seven students in the Lower Mainland are asked to write a speech about a topic of interest to themselves. This year a grade seven student Mitchell Howey delivered a speech about homelessness. It is well worth reading.

s=”ecmsonormal” style=”background: white; margin: 0cm 0cm 16.2pt;”>Hi my name is Mitchell Howey and I am here to change your opinion on the homeless. They started out as normal people like you and me, they have friends, family and brothers and sisters. The thing to remember is no one chooses to be homeless. There are many reasons why people are homeless but the two main reasons are poverty and mental illness. These people need affordable housing and support. We need to not judge so easily. That is why Im here to hopefully change your opinion on the homeless. 

I used to be one of those people who would walk by and pretend that they werent there as though they meant less than me. I never really thought about who they were or how they ended up where they are. Often I was scared and just wanted to get away quickly thinking they were lazy, losers, bums or something like a dirty floor that has not been cleaned in awhile. But now I know some of the reasons why they are homeless. Now I know that a quarter of them are mentally ill, 40% are substance users and alcoholics, and 15% of them are both of these. Still the number one reason of homelessness is poverty. So I know they arent bad people they just need some help. They have just been forgotten about and we need to remember these people are real. They have feelings and have a need to belong just like the rest of us. We should not try to hide them.


A recent news report showed an apartment building set on fire, the people had all their belongings burned and had nowhere to go. Others are homeless because they live in an abusive home, had a crisis in their lives or got sick and could not work. The list is endless…my point do not be so quick to judge others. 

Put yourself in their position, wouldnt that kind of life be very challenging? No family, no friends, nowhere to go


Wouldnt you want to live in a house rather than on the streets? Because of these reasons there are over 10,000,000 homeless people in the world. 


Now that you know some of the reasons that people become homeless, Im going to tell you how many homeless people there are. In 2005 an estimated 100,000,000 people worldwide didnt have a roof to sleep under. There are about 250,000 homeless people in Canada. North America has the smallest percent of homelessness while Europe on the other hand has over 3,000,000 homeless people. So its not just an issue in Canada its a worldwide issue. We have done well helping the homeless yet we have a long way to go. For example in Burnaby a rich, large city in the lower mainland there is no homeless shelter. Why is that I wonder?? Who decided that?? Thats why I’m going to tell you about the day in the life of a homeless person.

Think about this, 2 story house, Thanksgiving dinner, the gravy smells so good you might just fall of your chair. At the corner of your eye you spot someone sitting on the sidewalk. What do you do?

a)  Offer to come inside

b)   Ignore them

c)   Call the police

Just think about

this. What would you truthfully do. So now I think you know what Im trying to get at a homeless persons life is hard because there is a lot of temptations and thoughts of better lives that they could have. They have no access to health care, line up for food, get beaten up on the streets a tough life!!

In an interview I read a homeless woman stood up and said she was going to show us how just a moment of her life felt when she was on the streets. This is what she said: My stomach was growling, I felt faint from the heat of the sun. A plate of food or a drip of water would be nice, but what I really wanted was a smile or a nice greeting from one of the clean, normal people. Instead they gave me dirty looks, stares, and even frowns, which hurt more than the thought of having money or food. It was as if I was a leper who had broken the rules by daring to be seen in public. This is just a moment of her life. 

I may or may not have changed your opinion on the homeless. I just hope you know now that they were once people like you and me. They arent bad people.  And may I suggest next time you see someone on the streets do not look away smile and HELLO.

Thanks to the volunteers at the Burnaby Outreach Resource Centre for their interviews.


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  • lois woolf

    Well done, Mitchell. The world needs lots more young people like you!

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