Being Nowhere
Circus Tradition
Class Politics
Enormous Loss
Haditha Tragedy
Homeless Being
Illegal Camping Ordinance
Journalism Priviledge
Keep Us Safe
Leadership and the People

Lesser Evils
Lynching Iraq
News for Working People
Nice Cops
Palestinian Democracy
Poison Fish
Political Communication
Selective Memory
Vestigial Entrances

Being Nowhere

To experience homelessness is to be in a place no one wants to be -- including, and especially, the person in it. No one wants to trade places with a homeless person; and no one aspires to be without shelter. Helping professionals and volunteers inevitably confirm this when they focus on strategies of recovery and techniques of escape.

This is a difficult thought to hold in the front of ones mind even for a full five minutes. ‘No one wants to be where I am; everyone tries to avoid it; it’s the end of the road; the pits; bottom of the barrel.’ Even places of refuge remind of this nowhere place. The Salvation Army is for people who require salvation; as though the rest of us don’t.

To live every moment in the hope of being somewhere else, and also keep at bay the twin thought that this situation might never change, that escape might fail, seems quite impossible. Some part of every day must be devoted to life as it is here and now, a life no one wants to join you in -- not even, and especially, those who are in it with you.

Being without shelter also means being without security, without privacy, without credibility, without a bathroom on demand. These absences must be endured, but a life consumed by endurance seems hardly worth the effort. After thousands of hours talking to people without shelter, I am impressed by how few are suicidal. Under the circumstances it is a stretch to say endurance is freely chosen, and it is mean to conclude that because one endures one is comfortable.

Government policies, and much of the discourse appended thereto, are blind to these realities. It might help if we could all stay clear on the simple proposition that being without shelter is a material deprivation and not, in itself, a defect of character or a moral deficiency.

And a little contact might palliate the relentless isolation.














©Al Katz • Prof. of law SUNY, Buffalo, 1969-1989 (ret.)