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.
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.
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.
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
a little contact might palliate the relentless isolation.