this morning i woke early. i've been restless for awhile now and have been up early. mornings are quiet, except for the mockingbird, so i sat on the small back deck drinking coffee and thinking about the homeless. i wasn't dwelling on them, but sort of drifting in and out of thoughts about them and some of the things i've encountered. i read alot about the homeless and poverty...perhaps too much.
one subject i come across often when it comes to the homeless are various ways and efforts to make the homeless seem normal. sometimes it's a story, sometimes it's an article with 10 or 20 photos. sometimes it's a video depicting the homeless or a particular individual. i've even seen some artists attempt to glamorize the homeless with full studio photo shoots taking the homeless off the streets and putting them in the alien environment of a modeling studio and taking photos. while i understand the reasoning of doing these things and i also realize that it's important for people to understand that homelessness can truly happen to anyone and often very quickly, somehow these articles and photo essays make me cringe and some even offended me and everything i know about the homeless.
i'm writing this today because i think...or to be more specific...fear that we are dangerously close to normalizing homelessness and making it an accepted part of the society we live in today. it has become so prevalent and so publicized that we now have a tendency to read about the homeless and shrug it off as an every day experience that we can't avoid. listen to me....there is absolutely nothing glamorous, nothing romantic and nothing heroic about being homeless. there is nothing normal about being homeless. no part of homelessness should ever be accepted in our society today. not the reasons, not the causes, not the results and certainly not the concept that somehow the homeless are just normal people going thru a temporary difficult phase and soon it will all be ok and they'll be just like you in the end.
being homeless is a brutal and painful experience. under the best of circumstances it can consume you. it is emotionally draining and physically damaging. it's something that can overwhelm you if you let it. just the physical drain of surviving daily when you're homeless does an enormous amount of damage to your body and your mind. the emotional costs can be devastating and no housing program or any amount of money can solve or alleviate that. there is nothing normal and nothing mainstream about alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, social pathologies, family abandonment, isolation or the physical dangers that the homeless face daily. there is nothing glamorous or romantic about the very real danger of dying in the streets when you're homeless. there is nothing heroic about the daily effort to obtain food, temporary shelter or some sort of emotional respite from being homeless. there is nothing about being stereotyped, stigmatized and classified, as the homeless often are, that should be normalized or accepted by any of us.
the true face of the homeless....it's the people i see every day. it's the elderly walking with a cane, struggling to meet another day. it's the men who leave the mission every morning and begin another day of walking, sitting, and hoping to make it thru the next few hours without encountering any needless difficulties other than finding food, finding some rest during the day and returning to the mission again at nite to sleep safely indoors rather than face the dangers of a dangerous city after dark. it's the people I find on park benches and behind bushes when we go out at nite to search for the homeless in an effort to see if we can help in some way. it's the campers who choose to live in the woods or the parks rather than the mission. it's the newly homeless I see at nobucks café early in the morning with that distressed and lost look on their faces. it's the addicts and alcoholics who greet the day thinking of how to satisfy their habits. it's the mothers and children, the old and the young, the gay and the straight, the black and white, the men and women...all of whom are victims....sometimes of themselves...sometimes of circumstances. but none of them feel or look glamorous. none of them feel normal. none of them feel romantic. none of them feel like they're heroic or somehow better for being homeless. it's the families sleeping in their cars or in abandoned houses at nite because they refuse to be separated by programs offered for the mothers and children, but exclude the father. all of these people long to be normal again. all of them want to be romantic, glamorous or heroic. but for now...none are, none perceive themselves to be and none want to be accepted as they are.
we need to be aware and we need to be cautious about anesthetizing ourselves to the homeless and the situation they're in and the real circumstances surrounding them. we need to be careful that we don't see and hear so much about the homeless that we become less aware of just how difficult and devastating a situation they're in. we need to be cognizant of the deplorable and unacceptable conditions the homeless are forced to endure because they have no choices remaining.
the true faces of the homeless are one of pain, despair and something just shy of hopelessness. the true portraits of the homeless are painted in weariness and desperation. these portraits are not made with a camera or a video shoot. these portraits are etched in the lines on the faces of the homeless. the images are burned in their minds and in their psyches. the emotional paintings are theirs to carry on the canvas of their lives long after they exit homelessness. a true portrait of the homeless can never be made. each one has their own unique photo, their own unique video, their own individual painting. but each one has a common color...pain.
see you around town