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Monday, February 2, 2009

Part 3: It's OK to Be Homeless!

Civilization, as we know it, for better or worse, is near impossible without a vehicle. A vehicle gives one control of time. We all tend to take the convenience of the control of time for granted until our vehicle ends up in the shop. Matching up bus and train schedules and finding friends who happen to be going somewhere you want to go is easy enough, but you lose, say, at a minimum, two to three hours out of your day, and maybe more.

This time factor gets critical when you are homeless.

The logistics of getting to the bathroom, eating, and staying clean are already a challenge, but, then, not having wheels makes these routines all but utterly impracticable; and we have not yet begun to address having a job and getting to that job in order to earn some money. After all, a working person is expected to be clean, wear fresh clothing, smell right, and look rested. I would imagine it takes supernatural stamina, discipline, and determination to be prepared for work after a night sleeping in the bushes behind the trash bins.

You are wondering about shelters. There are shelters for emergency situations, overnight shelters, day centers, and various goal-oriented programs for getting homeless men and women back on their feet. I am on a waiting list. I have been on a waiting list for almost a year. I would be surprised if someone called me; and, anyway, I have given up on the idea of being housed, which is radical, I know, but maybe I can explain it.

Rest assured, though, there are good people around who are helping; and, I believe, the worst cases of homelessness are getting care most of the time. While I doubt there is any shelter suited to my sensibilities and tendency to get claustrophobic, take those women I met (in a manner of speaking) at Father Joe's Village. Clearly, most of these women have suffered a trauma and are off the street because a facility like Father Joe's exists.

For some time now, I have thought about housing and becoming housed. At first, scared of my decision to live in my vehicle, I thought only of getting enough money together to share a house or apartment; but then it occurred to me how much I dislike having roommates. Rarely, in the past, did I ever know those people well enough with whom I lived out of financial convenience (aka, the roommates); and there is nothing worse than spending money on a place where you no longer want to live, usually sticking it out because to find another place is just as uncomfortable. Consequently, I ended up moving only when I had to, that is, short of the place burning down.

Sometimes, tucked down comfortably in my truck and watching the stars out the windshield, I find it hard to imagine being housed again. I can understand Willie Nelson's restlessness and why the cowboys wrote those solitary songs. An eremetic way is not necessarily unsocial. I would love to share a campfire and would choose that over television; but I digress.

Homelessness has made it easier to save money, that very money I would begrudge spending every month on some portion of rent. I find I am living within my means, which had not occurred to me until a disagreeable old man pointed it out. It was early morning at the Yacht Club. I had parked next to the public washrooms near the boat house where I would do my toilette and was unloading my duffle from the back of the truck, when I spotted a man whom I often see in the area.

The man was walking toward me, only a few feet away. Given his proximity and that I recognized him, I thought it only decent to say "good morning" as he passed. He gave me a hard, unapproving look and kept walking. A little ways past me, he threw back a comment that I must be saving a lot of money living out of my truck. It is hard to know what to say to a complete stranger who presumes to know my motivation and attaches a value to it from a perspective I probably do not share.

All I could think was Republican, which, besides being a political party, is a point of view I do not understand, at least, not right away. I have to take my mind to the dark side where I can access character traits I eschew --- cynicism, mistrust, selfishness, stinginess, and small-mindedness ---and view this man's words from there. It took days of study to understand that this strange man resented me because I was not paying rent, to him, or someone like him. All he sees are dollar signs, and my moral obligation to society is in question because I cannot help him with his obsession. Money is his value. He had no concern at all that I might be hungry, or cold at night, or lonely, or scared. It never occurred to him to inquire.

Republican is a dirty word.

All thinking, sensitive people know how that came to pass; and my politics have suffered, hardening solidly to the left in this new century. I certainly would not make a good Bolshevik since I find nothing wrong with money; but money is not a value. Money is a thing, like any other thing. One can have a lot or a little, but it has nothing to do with values. Our country has taken a convoluted path to get where we are today. Somewhere along the trajectory, we followed the lead of people who thought it was OK to put people in the street; and that was not so long after we made it OK to bomb people living in huts.

What I seek is a whole new way to live together.

In the meanwhile, if the cost of rents ever goes down significantly, I may consider becoming one of the housed. Then, again, I may decide to stay in my truck. I might make a protest of it. I might stay in my truck, like an urban Gandhi, until every last homeless person has a place to live.

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