I’ve had a hard time writing lately. The closer I get to publishing and having to market this book I wrote about this impossible topic, the more I wish I could just hide in a closet and make it all go away. How do you get people to care about strangers? How do you undo the enormous amount of stigma and shame and vast misinformation attached to the homeless condition? And there’s a titch of some sort of survivor’s type guilt there as well. Am I doing enough? Will I be able to get the public to understand that compassion is a good and necessary thing for both giver and receiver?
People have a tendency to seek validation for their beliefs and once achieved, ignore any other competing information. Some homeless people do prefer that lifestyle, some homeless people are drug addicts, some homeless people are criminals and opportunists. The problem is that it remains the predominate narrative, the enforced stereotype that belies the underlying issues. The rest of the story, the actual demographics, tend to take a back seat because of this. In the age of information this is a travesty.
The actual demographics include an inordinate amount of veterans, elderly, disabled adults, and women and children. And let us not forget that about 50% of this population continues to hold jobs. These stereotypes need to be abolished. We need affordable housing. We need jobs that pay a living wage. We need adequate mental health and treatment options. We need to end the criminalization of poverty. In order to accomplish these things we need public support and pressure on policy makers. To do that we need the truth, we need to end the false stereotyping and misinformation. Misinformation like the big headlines last year about Utah solving it’s homeless problem. A man without shelter died last month in Utah, from the cold, while sleeping on a park bench. That does not seem very “solved” to me.
We must also remain clear and vocal about “the rest of the story” which includes the fact that America has enough money and resources to end homelessness tomorrow, we just don’t have the heart to where there is still a chance for profit to be made. We have to battle the false narrative of social darwinism (what I believe should be referred to as the cultural propaganda of fascism) which aims to make each person only and solely responsible for their own individual comfort and success, everyone else be damned. As in, “dog eat dog” and “sink or swim” completely forgetting that “no man is an island”.
This is coupled with a good dosing of emotional onslaught in the form of advertising and media that proclaims the solution to emotional discomfort (which they are also very good at causing) can be found in consuming more goods, making our friends and family “envious” (as if that is a good thing), fighting in more wars, and always, always finding a problem in someone else’s behavior that deserves merciless punishment. They offer external solutions for an internal state which -by design- will never work. Power and privilege is held up like a carrot as if power is something we are all equally entitled to and that those who currently hold it will surely give it up if we just prove we’ve earned it…right?
The media has influenced our social reality excessively and it is guilty of promoting the idea that seeking advantage over others rather than cooperation, will bring relief from suffering. They hold anyone who has done that up on a pedestal (*ahem see the monster that is Donald Trump currently holding court for a very relevant example) while abhorrently understating the fact that we ARE affected by each other’s suffering (at least those of us with souls). This is left out of the conversation either on purpose or by gross negligence. I’ll let you make that particular call.
While writing my book, I took great care to make sure that I was telling the truth. I did not want to paint a picture that claimed all homeless people are saints or perfect humans and that their state of being is entirely the fault of perfect strangers just trying to survive their own trip to planet earth. But I did have to remain very conscious of how little I could speak of drug addiction or crime or any other vilifying position the public is quick to assume is unique to the homeless population. While I was homeless it became very clear to me that if you so much as hint at a person being homeless by some fault of their own, the overwhelming response is “Ok, now we don’t need to do anything to help, they’ve made their bed, why shouldn’t they have to lie in it?” type of bullshit. That is no bed, that is sentenced to death without so much as a trial.
It seems like a valid argument on the surface and this is why it is so successful. Unfortunately this ideology pretends it is NOT true that our system is designed and enforces favor to a certain demographic. Service to self and leaders who engage in the manipulating of genetic outcomes by withholding life sustaining resources in order to propagate one race or class with advantage over others does not serve the social or spiritual creature. At all. It is actually pretty damn evil if you ask me. But they color it so nice with their pretty propaganda that the average citizen has no idea they are participating in this form of slow genocidal behavior nor the effects it will have for the human species long term. Pretty sure this is where the idea of some alien race enslaving us all came from. The actions of the pseudo-elite are so …well, inhuman.
But we should all be mindful enough by now to understand humans can be devastating creatures too, unfortunately. We should all be looking in the mirror to investigate what beliefs or attitudes we hold that are contributing to the problems we all face. In either case our current paradigm is something that should make everyone say “hmmm…what the hell is really going on with all of these blatant lies showing up everywhere”. And those of us who are already well aware of this insanity need to clang the bell, pound the drum and grab every available mic to tell the truth far, wide and as loudly as possible. Asking people to stop blaming the victim is now grounds for a shrill chorus of “you damn libtards are the reason we’re all suffering!” Trying to funnel resources and money or encourage advocacy for vulnerable people is now taking the effects of public shaming to a whole new level of hell. And on and on it goes.
I don’t think we’re going to find real solutions to the actual causes of homelessness until we start fully supporting every single soul that would like the opportunity to become a productive and/or intimately connected member of their community. This is when we will see very clearly that it is not so much effort but advantage that fosters economic success. When we collectively address creating advantages for each other with the intent of stable and thriving communities as our goal instead of buying this bullshit narrative, their devious plans will be clearly exposed for those who wish to take an accurate look.
In the meantime, how do we get past the lies that say homeless people have not earned a right to life and safety? Or the lie that someone with a billion dollars has earned the right not to care? Why are we not demanding they show a little national pride by caring for their fellow citizens, especially the ones who have risked death in service to their million dollar dream? Do you understand the circular nature and logical fallacy inherent in this game? A homeless veteran once showed me a sketch pad full of insightful and well-drawn sketches. Should he be left to die because he hasn’t figured out how to play the market or doesn’t feel comfortable selling his gift rather than sharing it? If he takes a drink of alcohol is that sufficient reason to dismiss every positive thing he has done and leave him to die? Far too many people are saying yes, let him die. How did we allow ourselves to become so cold?
Putting aside the obvious need to examine how foolish this pseudo-meritocracy is and recognizing it may take some time to fully undo this corruption, (which people experiencing life without shelter do not have), let’s move on to what we can do to make a difference today. There remains a tremendous need for mentoring, networking opportunities and advocacy for people experiencing homelessness. We need to help bridge the gap of social exclusion that homelessness causes and seriously address the effects of stress and trauma on one’s ability to navigate life.
We absolutely need to end the criminalization of poverty. How anyone can stomach that level of inhumanity is really, truly beyond me. Without question, we need to start examining our priorities and create opportunities that offer benefits and social connection for all citizens. Can a good, kind and willing soul get a break or is everyone totally cool with the value of their life being weighed against the amount of tax they pay? You probably don’t want to know how many people think this is true. “Non-taxpayers are bad” is also at the heart of why this epidemic continues, no evaluation of the fundamental personhood, just have enough god damned money or die. As if every person who wants to make money has a genuine opportunity or ability to do so. And this is exactly why you see disabled people, children and elderly increasingly found living without shelter. It is the fundamental question of life and death that every person experiencing homelessness is subjected to without the slightest regard from the average citizen of how devastating this invalid meritocracy is to the future of our country.
We all have the ability to tap into some tremendous well of will power to defy the most obnoxious obstacles. The fundamental difference between someone making it out of homelessness or not is very clear to me. Connection, hope and opportunity.
It is time to undo the rhetoric and the false narrative and stop punishing people with torturous public shaming and stigma while they are at their lowest. While we are providing these band-aids, we must also be actively pursuing more viable solutions so that we do not run into the problem of patting ourselves on the back while the problem continues to grow further out of control.
I highly encourage each and every citizen to become educated on the state of homeless services in their local community. Is your shelter adequately funded? Are there additional warming centers with a reasonable temperature standard? Are there easily accessible treatment and recovery options? Do you see enrichment and positive social opportunities available to children experiencing homelessness? Are there free meals available every day of the week? Are there policies and funding in place to prevent homelessness for those at greatest risk? Does your community have adequate subsidized and transitional housing? Are there class disparities that are making it clearly more difficult for some to meet the local cost of living? Does your community have adequate job skills, mentoring and training opportunities? Has your community provided bathroom facilities, clothing banks or other essential needs outreach?
There are many ways for you to make a difference and there is plenty of reason to do so. It is my sincerest hope that we all become actively engaged in making our communities a vibrant and supportive place every citizen can be proud to call home.
Check out and “Like” my new Facebook page! The Lightworker’s Guide to Homelessness