Down, But Not Out

An introspective examination of the tragedy of homelessness in the richest society ever to exist on Earth

Homelessness is not an accident. Homelessness is not a problem. Homelessness is a political agenda. Why else would there be so many homeless people in the richest country that ever existed on the face of this planet.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Community

There is a whole community out there.

Homeless people share more of a sense of community than most of the rest of society.

It’s very strange that we live in a society where it is normal for two people who live or work in the same building to share an elevator and not know each others names, and not even speak. Most people don’t even know their next door neighbour’s name. We ride across the city, seated beside another person and don’t say a word.

Yet most homeless people know hundreds of other homeless people on a friendly communal level. They hang together in drop in centres and shelters. They build their squats close together. They often pursue what ever money making activities they specialize in as partners.

When one homeless person passes another on the street, he will acknowledge that person with a word or a gesture of solidarity.

There are several reasons why a sense of community is more prevalent on the streets than in society as a whole:

1. It is a common phenomenon that people who share a problem have a sympathetic attraction to each other. A Homeless person can relate to the problems of someone else in the same boat.

2. There is a great danger of violence on the streets, which tends to encourage homeless people to band together for mutual protection. Interestingly, homeless people fear the police and regular citizens much more than they fear each other. Much of the violence they are submitted to comes from these people.

3. There is a greater drive to socialize among the homeless than is the rule in more traditional forms of society. I believe that this is partly a result of the drugs and alcohol which homeless people use to ease the pain of being outcast. When people are using whatever mind altering substance they prefer, they tend to be more sociable.

4. There is an element of freedom to the lifestyle that is conducive to a joyful heart. Even though the life is difficult, it is the most liberated alternative there is to the ever increasing encroachment of government and business interests into people’s lives. Free spirits tend to find pleasure in each others company. (I believe that members of the more traditional segments of society recognize this freedom on an elemental level and react to it violently because of jealousy and fear.)

5. For many homeless people, the one thing they have left is their humanity and governments are constantly trying to take that away from them too. We are persistently moving towards criminalization of homelessness. The government wants to round us up and imprison us in so called shelters which will become nothing more than concentration camps. With each move that the government takes to persecute homeless people, there is a collateral reaction among homeless people of stronger resistance. The senseless laws that governments create to try to legislate us out of existence only succeed in instilling an ever increasing contempt for all laws, with the result that lawlessness is spiralling out of control. By creating ever more onerous laws in an attempt to contain the problem, governments only succeed in increasing the solidarity of the homeless community.

It’s interesting to note that the money that is spent trying to whitewash the problem could eliminate a large portion of it if the same funds were directed towards providing a liveable level of social assistance. Many of the homeless people out here would have a home if there was a realistic allotment of funds for rental accommodation. At present, a social assistance recipient in Toronto receives a maximum of $325.00 per month to pay rent. Any fool knows that it is virtually impossible to find liveable housing in Toronto for less than $500.00 per month. This $175.00 per month shortfall results in hundreds of otherwise normal citizens being unable to pay their rent and becoming homeless. The saddest thing is that once someone is homeless he quickly abandons hope and resorts to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain. Once this happens, there is little or no hope of his ever becoming a productive member of society again. Less than 10% of the people who try to make a come back actually make it. Wouldn’t it be wiser to spend a little time and money preventing homelessness in the first place? Maybe then the community of homeless could be replaced by the community of Mankind.


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