Living Homeless

The last day of August is upon us.  The morning temperatures are remaining in the 40s, making quite clear the promise of Autumn.  Yesterday was Sunday, the hardest day of the week for a homeless person.  This is due to the lack of services on Sunday that are available on the other days of the week.  There is no bus service, the libraries are not open and many businesses are closed.  Even if you just want to wander around and kill time by browsing through various shops, fewer are open, and this, coupled with the lack of the (warm) libraries, makes for an outdoor day.  To be sure, Sunday morning has Church services, but many homeless, having seen little Grace from God in their recent existence, tend to avoid worship and organized religion, deeming them for people who are not ‘outside.’  Outside of society, outside of being homed, usually outside of employment, and oftentimes outside of a viable relationship.  Such isolation does not make the homeless feel welcome in any community, even the community of the congregation of a Church.

Luckily, Winter is not yet upon us and the outdoor existence is not brutal.  Boring perhaps, but not brutal.  If the homeless is fortunate enough to have a little money in their pocket, they can buy a coffee and sit at one of the outdoor tables of the coffee shops and nurse the coffee for several hours, in the anecdotal way that a Scotsman nurses a beer.  It helps, because it is hard to be on your feet for hours on end, either walking or just standing in some sheltered place should it be raining.  The boredom that one feels eventually is realized to be part of the enemy.  Your mind is already filled with unhappiness due to your position in society, and it is not a good thing to have nothing to occupy your thoughts, because you tend to drift into negative, self-defeating attitudes.  So, conversation is in order, allowing you to escape the morass of your own difficulties and chat about meaningless trivialities, which are nevertheless a welcome diversion.  Often, one homeless person, who can afford the coffee, will end end up sitting with two or three others, who cannot, and socialize.  This can be sometimes unpleasant, as someone will usually want to talk about their own difficulties, and this is little better than sitting alone and thinking of your own difficulties.  But it does allow one to be in a position of helpfulness and advocation rather than in a position of self-defeatism.

If one has an especially positive attitude, one can befriend ‘normal’ members of the community.  This is a very fruitful experience, as it allows one to inch back toward a more balanced attitude.  There is nothing like personal validation as a mechanism to engender self-actualization.  This is actually the first halting step on the road to recovering one’s sense of worth after having been through such depressing experiences which the homeless must endure.  Some (many) do not get to this step and after faltering for a bit, move on to some other shelter in some other community.  There is a large mobile community of the homeless who move from shelter to shelter and state to state.  Typically unrecorded, their presence is never felt long enough in any one community to register.  I have seen many of these people in my stays at homeless shelters.  Some of them embrace this lifestyle as a way of avoiding the issues that plague them, while others are already so self-defeated that it seems the only avenue of possibility for them.  It is a sad experience, to watch this parade of the hopeless move through life, and know that there are no societal mechanisms for dealing with them, and no way for those few individuals who do care, to connect with them.  But life has always been unfair and imperfect, and it is important to not lose focus, and to realize that one must take care of oneself before one can effectively take care of others.  And, in the interim, the cold winds of Autumn have begun to blow.