Living & dying on the streets: Being homeless is HARD WORK!
While my apartment was busy being renovated, re-habbed and fixed up for most of last month and a good chunk of this one, I had been forced to find “alternative housing” — staying with relatives, living in cheap motels, house-sitting for strangers, sleeping on various couches and futons, renting rooms-by-the-night in other peoples’ homes, staying in hostels, whatever. But yesterday I finally got to move back home!
Sure, all my stuff was still in boxes when I got back and the heater didn’t work and there was no hot water, but it’s like Virginia Woolf used to say, “All one really needs is a bed and a computer of one’s own.”
Everything else is just icing on the cake.
This past month has been a grand adventure, obviously, and a whole lot of fun in many ways. But the bottom line is that, for most of this time, I was disoriented and grouchy and unsure and unorganized and even afraid. And for much of this time I was basically living out of the back seat of my car — and in laundromats and diners and parks and libraries. Even now, my head hurts just thinking about it.
And even though I myself was never in any real danger of being actually homeless during this time and didn’t have to go without any meals and always found a roof to put over my head, nevertheless, I was constantly stressed out during this entire month. Mucho stressed out. Stressed out a lot!
So just imagine if someone was forced to do this uber-stressful homelessness gig 24/7; for months and even years at a time — with no resources, no backup and no future hope that someday soon they would be going back home again. I can’t even imagine doing all that and still keeping sane.
In just the past month, my complete respect for the homeless has grown by leaps and bounds. It’s a wonder to me that they can handle all this stress day after day and still remain sane. It’s even a wonder to me that they can even still stay alive.
According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, “[T]he number of homeless people on a single night in January 2012 was 633,782.” http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/20/us-usa-economy-hunger-idUSBRE8BJ14I20121220 And I bet there were a lot more than that.
Here’s to you, homeless Americans everywhere. Having been almost one of you for only one month, I salute you with all of my heart.
PS: My all-time favorite bumper sticker reads, “Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World Peace in one generation!” And I sincerely believed this was true until I met a young woman from China recently — and now have to re-think that idea completely.
“What are they like — those adults in China who have grown up under its single-child system, the fortunately-nurtured ones whose needs have all been met? Are they happy, secure, hopeful, compassionate?”
“No, hardly! They’re egocentric, self-centered and spoiled. They think only of themselves and their own wants and needs. Having been raised without siblings and with so many doting parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, all they can pretty much do now as adults is to whine a lot when they don’t get their own way — and expect to be waited on.”
And this same sort of thing seems to be true here at my housing co-op as well. When we all moved in here back in 1979, a lot of us had some pretty grim stories to tell — having endured poverty, homelessness, spousal abuse, single-parent loneliness, unemployment, overcrowding, victimization, addiction, etc; before finding these wonderful homes. I myself had previously been living in an attic without running water and then in a small apartment with no privacy.
And then our sweet little housing co-op offered all of us bruised members of society an idealistic new chance to be wanted, nurtured, protected and loved. My co-op’s motto became “Caring and Sharing”.
And so what happened next? How did these new residents handle this wonderful new chance? Humph. Instead of creating “neighborhood peace in one generation” like we had hoped, they soon became a re-creation of the worst of today’s modern American society, almost exactly. We soon developed an almost Darwinian example of survival of the fittest.
Within ten years, my sweet little housing co-op had already developed its very own Boss Tweeds and its very own 1%.
However, something good did come of all this. Timid little me actually began to develop the necessary cajones to go up against this new 1% all by myself. And even after surviving attempts to beat me up, illegally raise my rent, stage frequent sudden illegal “inspections” of my apartment, actually try to pass an ordinance that I was not allowed to knit in board meetings, hold five (5) kangaroo courts to try to convict me of wrong-doing, attempt to evict me illegally and even to throw me in jail, I did finally win the battle to get my housing co-op not only financially stable for the first time in years but actually renovated and restored to its original pristine condition.
And then, even more important, when George W. Bush stole the 2000 election, I realized that if I could single-handedly defeat the greedy Boss Tweeds who ran my housing co-op, then taking on GWB should be a walk in the park! And that’s how I became a blogger. So, actually, I do owe those former powers-that-be in my co-op a huge debt of gratitude after all.
They proved to me that if someone, even the weakest and meekest of us all, can work long enough and hard enough to achieve justice, then it can be obtained.
And so Wall Street and War Street had better watch out! I am still coming after them. And I’m now locked and loaded — with a computer and a bed!
PPS: A well-known local psychiatrist recently gave a speech to members of the Berkeley-Albany Bar Association, and he said that children raised in child-centered households were far LESS likely to become substance abusers than children raised in adult-centered households.
This probably means that the egotistic children of China at least won’t be at risk for getting all addicted to alcohol and drugs — plus it certainly explains why GWB was a drunk and coke addict for so many years.