"Lazy" is a pejorative term used by bigoted, high-minded people to unfairly characterize and judge people down on their luck. The word is smeared as a character flaw upon homeless adult males especially to denigrate them and justify not offering them any help, or even worse, inflicting acts of violence upon them.
The truth is people experiencing homelessness want to work. According to a 2002 national study by the Urban Institute, about 45 percent of homeless adults had worked in the past 30 days, and the number of working homeless would probably be even higher if "off the books" work was included. Whether scavenging for cans and scrap metal at 3:00 in the morning, cleaning someone's shop for them "under the table," or working on "paper trucks" throwing newspapers or advertisements onto people's driveways, many homeless people find ingenious ways to subsist based on the belief that hard work will elevate them out of homelessness.
"The truth is people experiencing homelessness want to work . . . many [believe] that hard work will elevate them out of homelessness."
With or without a job, just trying to survive homelessness is exhausting in and of itself, not only physically, but psychologically and spiritually as well. Experiencing homelessness means having only one or two meals a day, suffering from sleep deprivation, dealing with hostility, rejection and loneliness, and defending oneself from cruel and violent words and actions. Not having proper rest, food, shelter and personal hygiene slowly but consistently wears down a person's mental health, physical strength, and self-efficacy. As a result, many people experiencing homelessness appear worn and lethargic.
Instead of determining whether someone is deserving or undeserving of our help, we need to get busy implementing ways to help our neighbors off the streets and out of shelters and get them into permanent housing. After all, it is less expensive and more effective to house and surround them with supportive services than it is to incarcerate, shelter and hospitalize them. The first step is to stop judging them as “lazy” because appearances can be misleading, and "there go [we] but for the grace of God."