Some comments

Anitra Freeman (anitra@speakeasy.org)
Fri, 6 Nov 1998 23:14:00 -0800


I sent some comments to another list that Tom thought might also be
valuable here, so I'm sending them on.  Some of what I was responding to is
edited out, to respect the other parties' privacy; I hope it hangs
together.  I'm looking forward to responses.

***

I'd say that many homeless people want to be part of society and many
don't; also, many of the "homed" want to accept homeless people as part of
society, but many don't.

Homelessness is a lack of community more than a lack of income.  When
someone's been hiding out over the underpasses for an extended period of
time, becoming part of a social network again isn't a moment's howdy.  One
of the ongoing efforts of SHARE and WHEEL is to reach out to folks who are
camping in the Jungle or hiding in the alleys and let them know that there
is are groups of homeless people banding together to help each other out,
then bringing them into a group and teaching them -- hell, we're all
teaching each other -- how to work in community.

One thing I've noted is that homeless people who have the most experience
of working together with other homeless people also find it easiest to work
with non-homeless partners; and homeless people who most reject anyone
non-homeless are also very judgemental and un-cooperative with other
homeless people.  Personally, I don't consider someone's income level as a
qualification for working for empowerment, but their attitude and behavior.

One of the worst trends in our society is the steady dismantling of the
social safety-net.  A society taking care of its weakest (temporarily or
not) members is a mark of civilization.  At this point, the Vikings were a
lot less savage than twentieth-century America.

There is a pile of evidence that people get back on their feet faster,
whether it is from alcoholism or accident, when they have help than when
they are left to "sink or swim".  But something, whether it is the historic
strain of Puritanism or the siren-song of consumerism, keeps bringing back
the idea that everyone is supposed to pull themselves up by their own
bootstraps and nobody should even have to give them the bootstraps, in my
day we made our own bootstraps out of spit and cardboard by God.

What is really insidious is that a lot of homeless people have bought into
this.  They are ashamed of being poor, ashamed of being homeless, and
ashamed to ask for help.  And some of the angriest email I have gotten is
from people who were homeless and got out of it, and now say, "I did it on
my own!  All you lazy bums are just whiners!  Shut up and get a life!  Take
two, they're small!"

___________________________________________________________
Anitra L. Freeman, Dances With Dragons, http://members.xoom.com/Anitra/ --
an entry point for the new Writers Ring!
See http://www.speakeasy.org/~anitra/projects.html for a full list of
projects and websites, because if I list them all here you are going to be
*so* mad at me...