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    The Hopelessness of Homelessness - A Guest Post

    The post below was written by my internet friend and fellow writer, syrbal-labrys.  She posted it on her own blog, Experiential Pagan, about a month ago but I only just discovered it last week.  I asked her if I could re-post it here and she graciously agreed.  

    We talk about the homeless a lot, but most often as distant observers who can only imagine what it must be like.  This is a story of an encounter and a rescue, with an ending as elusive as the reasons why:

    August 8, 2015 by syrbal-labrys   
     I’ve been distracted this week.  My mind has wandered, as if lost, through a combination of fiction, memory, and reality in a particularly disturbing way.
    I re-read a favorite piece of fiction: “Dune” — a pivotal bit of sci-fi and social fantasy for me.  The idea of a feudal society has always appalled me, you see?  And yet, as the rich gather the reins of power as well as the bulk of the income and property in America, that sort of image could well be the future of America. (And I cannot stop seeing Donald Trump as a Baron Harkonnen wanna-be.) What a horrific ending of America’s experiment as a democratic republic.
    This last week, out on a shopping/errand trip, I saw a young man standing on a street corner with an unreadably small cardboard sign.  The only cash I had was a $20 bill, so we summoned him to the car window and handed it to him since he had an air of utter misery and desperation about him.  His reaction was one of shock and near tears.  This disturbed me even more.  We went about the rest of our business.  Three hours later, coming back – he still stood there, of course.
    And something in me broke.  I asked my husband to pull over and fetch him.  We asked him if it would help to work for us for a couple weeks (all I could pay for by robbing a small savings account) with a place to sleep and food.  He was overcome, and (I think) frightened – I mean, we could be any sort of crazy predators, couldn’t we?  But he met us the next morning, hunched with cold after a night with no protection from the temperature drop from the high 80’s into the low 50’s.
    With my broken ankle and the Minotaur’s knee surgery, there were many summer tasks and projects languishing.  So we put him to work, paying him and driving him back to town to give the bulk of the money to his mate and child.  They, too, are technically homeless and back at home with her parents, who seem angry and rather resentful about it.  But it is likely just because their own resources are so stretched to thin tolerances.  She has a job and is trying to save for an apartment.  A minimum of sustainability is all but out of their collective reach.
    Knowing that the tiny extent of our attempt to aid him was a couple weeks of safe sleep, meals and a few hundred dollars makes me feel crushingly inadequate.  There is very little help for the homeless in our very red county.  He can be arrested for begging, or for sleeping on public property.  He is criminal merely for being homeless and poor.  He lives on energy drinks and candy bars, taking the bulk of whatever money he gets to his mate and child.
    He has a work history, he has job skills; but with no drivers license and no address it is difficult to get and keep a job.  He lost his driver’s license due to lacking money for insurance  – once ticketed for driving without insurance and not being able to pay the ticket (back in his teens) meant his driver’s license was suspended.  Then, caught driving without a valid license — tickets, fees, and such accrued out of any possibly remedy.  It is beyond MY power to resolve, certainly.
    He is in desperate need of dental work and although he has the state insurance that should pay for that?  No local dentist or oral surgeon accepts that insurance.  That is a ‘what-the-fuck’ Catch-22 right there, is it not?  The only oral surgeon who could resolve his constant pain is in Bremerton — a two if not three hour commute away.  There is NO bus service out here, so he cannot even try to get there in that way.
    He has been homeless off and on since his teens, he dropped out of school one year short of graduating because his meth-addicted mother kicked him out and he worked full time to support himself.  He really never got a half decent chance at life, and now every system is full of catches where even doing it all as right as he can is not sufficient.  He has friends on the streets, some sleep in cars or trucks they own.  Some run from repo men to keep their wheeled “homes”.  Some are veterans.  They park in shopping center lots to sleep, hoping to not be arrested.
    This is a face of America.  The face everyone seems to turn away from seeing.  The GOP call such people shiftless and lazy.  That has not been my experience of them.  I see desperation and hopelessness.  I see hard, hard work for very little in the most part.  I am furious and heartbroken that I can do so little to help.  It can be no coincidence in my mind that the first homeless folk I saw were in Washington D.C. while Ronald Reagan was President, can it?  I had to try explaining to my children why men were sleeping on benches in the park opposite the White House, in December.  So that memory replays as I see the young man I brought home to rest.
    honeyhouse I saw him sleep on my sofa his first morning here after a full meal.  I told him not to be afraid, we are not religious nuts who will pull the “rice Christian” bit on him; I promised he was safe to rest.  He slept with the abandonment of utter exhaustion; even the dogs did not bark at him — they know hurt and broken when they see it.   He now sleeps in the Honey House, where he can lock a door temporarily his own to feel secure.
    I want to “Be the change you want to see in the world” –– I really do.  But oh, that change needs more than what one retired couple can provide. We make sure our two veteran sons, who subsist on disability or minimum wage jobs, are not homeless.  It stretches us, keeps us from feeling financially rowdy.  It keeps us careful and cautious.  But I cannot avoid other faces I see — faces that mirror what could have become of my own sons, if the Minotaur and I had not held ourselves and our marriage and home together.
    I can no longer look and do nothing, even though the little I can do is surely too little.  And I am angry and heartbroken.  The electioneering is gearing up.  Whatever gods may or may not be better protect any imbecilic Republican saying stupid things about the poor and homeless within MY earshot.  Because, I tell you, there could be blood.  And oh-so-not from Megyn Kelly’s “nose“! (And yes, just let me say, fuck Donald Trump with a dozen flaming pineapples.)


    And then. . .  
    He left about a week after he arrived.  Labrys contacted his girlfriend, who has heard from him only once.  She is afraid he has lapsed into addiction.  Meth.  
    So now they wait. . .


    Thanks for this.  

    Remember not all of them have addictions.   

    I can't stand to listen to the Republicans any more.  They are cruel and inhuman.  

    I've about stopped being polite about Republicans.  They don't deserve an ounce of respect. But the Democrats are much too quiet about this problem, too.

    This should not be happening to anyone, and no, it's not just people with addictions.  But sometimes this very hopelessness causes people to turn to drugs.  Anything to keep from having to deal with this kind of reality.  We keep talking about it without doing much to change it. It's not as if there aren't solutions  to homelessness or hopelessness--we just have to care enough to make an effort.

    For more than eight years, I have had a place to live.

    Of course I had decades with residences, large and small that I had earned.

    The threat of homelessness, just the damn threat gave me nightmares that persisted for years.

    The nightmare would involve me finding myself in some house where I did not belong.

    The fear was incredible.

    Rudy and other mayors 'took care' of the problem of homelessness. All you have to do as a society is to HIDE THE DAMN PROBLEM.

    Get 'them' out of Times Square (along with the other miscreants like prostitutes). Just get 'them' out of view.

    See no evil, as it were.

    There are parts of this nation where the homeless can find a way, where the homeless have access to bathrooms and ovens and beds. And there are parts of this nation where there is no access.

    We need to discuss these issues.

    Thank you.

    Hard to believe that some cities actually make laws forbidding the public feeding of homeless people.  And others put sharp spikes under bridges to keep them from sleeping there.  This is a national problem and needs to be addressed by the Federal government.  As long as they ignore it, hoping the states will take care of  it, nothing much will change. 

    But there are positive signs--way too little and way too late, but it's something, anyway.

    Just the other day the local news ran a piece about a panhandler named Kevin Gaudio who had physical and mental issues. If you watch the video, the physical issues are very apparent.

    Two years ago a federal judge overturned a state law prohibiting panhandling in Michigan deeming it unconstitutional and violating free speech.

    Since then, local ordinances overriding the overturned state law have been popping up all over the place banning begging on the streets by citing public safety issues.

    Making the poor get begging permits (which is what some places have done) is not the way to make the poor go away.

    Begging permits?  Jeez, can we do anything more to make them feel like maggots?  There's a woman in Detroit who fills her van with blankets and hands them out on cold nights.  It's no long-term solution, but she recognizes that the homeless are human beings and they get cold at night.  Of course, there are others who do what they can but they can never do what the governments could do on a large scale, if only they would.

    There is that on-going campaign designed to make liberals feel bad about helping anyone.  They call us "enablers" and warn us that any time we give the poor anything we make them lazy.  It's all our fault, and it's astounding how many people keep spouting that--even people who don't have a pot to piss in, themselves, but as long as they have a roof over their heads they're better than the homeless.  

    Individual "freedom", that's the ticket.  Oh, and the homeless like being homeless, so we liberals should quit sticking our noses into other peoples' business.

    Most of the time, people think of homeless being just a New York City and LA but it is also a problem for most of South Florida.  I have written before knowing homeless people by first name bases in my area.  I think about them now because they had to move from their camp area because that property has been sold and being developed. I did see one in front of a discount grocery store and we had a little visit.  This was several miles from here. 

    For you that spend time with face book you have in the last couple of months seen my area's most famous homeless person.  

    That led to this.

     He has cleaned himself up with the help of others.  This was covered on the local news 2 weeks ago. 

    This is not was usually happens, but it does show these people should not just be ignored.  They have still have much to offer society. 

    Thanks so much for sharing that, Momoe.  "Homelessness" isn't an abstract, and they're not all druggies--though some of them are.

    On Maui, we saw many homeless men living in caves at the ocean shore.  Every now and then the police go through and kick them out, just so they can say they've done something about the loitering. (The rich mansion-dwellers above complain, even though there has never been any real trouble with them.)  So they kick them out in the morning, and by nightfall they're back.  And so it goes until someone else complains, or until their bosses tell them it's that time again.  We've heard that the police even leave food, clothes, and toiletries.  (There are showers in the parks nearby.)  

    I just got done watching a hour long report done by the local paper about homelessness in Sarasota.  I am not going to post a link to it because local politics leave a lot to be desired.  The official count for Sarasota is 1500 people.  But someone who works with the homeless said it was 3 times that.  I live 7 minutes from Sarasota and I can tell you we have a few thousand here next door to Sarasota.  They are here because it is easier to survive the winters also because this was ground zero for the housing melt down.  The economy never recovered. 

    Your friend is very wise and compassionate.

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