HOMELESSNESS

 

Freelance journalist Armani Lopez

 
 

I once met a man who said his greatest fear was being homeless. Rather, the notion of not being homeless and then through a series of circumstances involving poor luck and bad decisions, ending up homeless. 

During our discussion, being homeless was not the answer I gave when prompted for my greatest fear but after hearing his answer how could one not agree that the fear of becoming homeless is indeed a respectable thing to decide to be afraid of and to avoid? In fact, I had never even really considered many ramifications of living on the streets prior to this.

Homelessness has been a popular political issue for some time now, if you consider New York mayor’s infamous crackdown on certain sectors of the homeless population. This generally painted a negative picture of homeless people, usually depicting them as violent, mentally disturbed people, implying that for reasons concerning their inherent character were unable to respect an acceptable merit of work ethic and have thus been removed to the fringes of society, not to be casually associated with for fear of bad habits being transferred. 

  
Meddling in their affairs is typically a job for the social worker, individuals trained in all manners of maintaining the welfare of his or her fellow citizens. Since there are many aspects to this; the discipline can be depicted in various forms of work. The most popular kinds of services in this category are probably food banks, such as Loves & Fishes in Sacramento, California and other similar organizations, in which people are encouraged to donate his or her time via a volunteer program. 

It helps to look at the volunteer service as a give-take opportunity, as the people donate their time for a positive cause and can usually log in a decent amount of hours for their volunteer experience. Other passionate individuals may even take it a step further and actually work for said organizations, rather than just volunteering during off hours. Could full fledged careers really be carved through a niche that relies on a population of hobos?

  
Arguably, more people than one might think are homeless, have been homeless before, or are in situations that could render them homeless for a temporary or undetermined amount of time. It might not even really be age dependent, meaning, (excluding a few key demographics), if you interact with a few people over the course of a few days to a week, you may find at least one or a few have been in the previously mentioned domestically threatening scenarios. After realizing you would have never guessed these people were in those situations, you may note how initially kind or well mannered they seemed. It is analogous to the stereotypical orphan child, growing up without parents and learning how to fend for his or herself, usually going on to building a reputable life for their spouse and children, not wanting anyone they know or love to have to endure the same childhood experiences. 

There is an ever increasing drive to remain stable and avoid the purgatory known as homelessness. In fact, that is probably the most common reason for wanting what is known as “success”, in order to “keep up with the Jones’s”, or to not be homeless: to be comfortable and known for being a valuable contributing member of society, to be admired by peers for the noticeable work he has accomplished, the lives he has touched, the differences in the world he has made, and the rewards he has received as a testament to all this expected employment of man hours; a duty required by every man so that the people’s nation can remain strong and intact.

However, that being said, it has been recognized that a traditional homebound life is not for everyone. From couch surfing to extensive traveling, a few years without particular adult responsibilities has been suggested as a necessary and/or rewarding time of one’s life, in which invaluable lessons concerning respect and empathy can be learned through exposure to a variety of people and cultures. In most cases these people probably aren’t actually homeless as the lifestyle is voluntary.

I would then make a claim that a positive connotation for the term ‘homeless’ is ‘vagabond’. Of course, there are probably some criteria to be called a vagabond and to be differentiated from the average homeless population. Vagabonds typically travel for work and may have an extensive network of contacts (not unlike your average homeless person). They usually exert a cool aura and are knowledgeable about what is going on in the scene of their choice. As has been said before, some people just aren’t good at following through with that “typical American” lifestyle. Perhaps it bores them or their line of work calls for slightly more unusual circumstances. Most people would not assume that there is something seriously wrong with their mental capabilities.

  
On the other hand local hobo populations have been an irreplaceable source of entertainment for roughly fifteen-twenty years now, and the internet has made tuning in to the antics of homeless people even more accessible. Simply put, some people probably couldn’t just help it; whether that be inadvertently getting addicted to drugs through a boyfriend (leading to homelessness) or inherent mental instability that activated at the wrong time, some people are aware of his or her potential shortcomings but simply can’t help it, even when interacting with others. They seem mostly content, or understanding of their dilemma. There’s probably just as much violence and conflict with them as there is in family, civil, or domestic disputes. They may be well aware of some particular aspect regarding basic needs. Some of them are actually better off than one may initially presume.

In my life so far I have met a variety of poor people, some of them homeless. A lot of them don’t have access to contemporary resources and only are concerned with what they know or have been taught growing up. Religion and Christianity is a popular source to turn to to help get through the day. A man who seemed fairly interested in my well being once asked what I was studying in college. I said ‘journalism’. He said he studied that too and was a journalist some thirty or forty years ago, and to look at him now, after enjoying a career in journalism. He was dressed fairly casual but was apparently homeless. I’m guessing he was trying to teach me something about life. He asked if I was into music, and I said yes. I produced a few tracks here and there for some people I know. He said he was a music producer back in the day as well. He asked if I heard of one of his groups, which was a trio of Spanish males in what appeared a precursor to popular boy bands. I told him no. He said he produced a few hits for them back in the 70’s. I wasn’t sure what to say. Pretty soon, some other guy joined the conversation and started talking to him, at which point I kind of eased my way out. The guy seemed tired and confused but I am sure he meant well.

People typically try to foster the homeless with spare change, food, or clothing. Somewhat sensibly, some people refuse to give them money because they might use it to support an alcohol or drug habit. I am not sure if anyone knows what to do about all the homelessness. It is as if the goal is to take care of the entire population. You can offer them food or goods as a quick short term solution of good doing but the rest is seemingly up to them to change their life for the better. What happens after all homeless people are given homes to stay in or sustainable jobs to work? There will always be a new generation of people living on the streets, for one reason or another. Then, is it always up to some person or the other to provide appropriate dictation on how best to improve living conditions and the right thing to work towards?

If one is lucky enough, I suppose, they can get out of it early and maybe learn a skill or two on one way of dealing with people in the real world. These people are probably living with different views from people in other conditions and it takes a little bit of time to learn and understand where each person is coming from, regardless of if there’s a more respectable way of obtaining money. People generally seek the easiest, ultimately least stressful way of life for them to support his or herself. Besides taking an “easy way out” not everyone manages to find that work which suits them best. People will generally attempt to do so in order to be the most attractive in some way; to truly be rich and minimize chances of being considered poor, unsafe, or alone.