Thursday, June 28, 2007

Romanticizing Homelessness....

I have decided to repost this but have removed the part that led me to feel too exposed. And, thanks to those who wrote me to ask about it. From now on, no posts from this site until late afternoon. Your points were taken.


Last night I got to thinking about homelessness again. Part of that is a result of having read this post.

A long time ago, I had a tendency to romanticize the nomad life, the hobo life. When I was a kid, I used to see groups of guys down by the river, cooking over their open fire. It looked like camping out.

In the 60s and 70s, many people simply opted out of the middle class life. They wanted freedom and adventure.

When I read "The Drifters" by James Michener as a teenager, it brought about more fantasies of nomadism and free-spiritedness... but Michener took me to Europe. (The fact that I was reading it by the pool at my parents' house in an upscale neighborhood in Los Angeles isn't lost on me. Please don't judge me too harshly. I wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed.)

That same year, I read "Babbit", a novel about a salesman whose spirit was smothered by corporate and middle class life. The last line in the book is "I never did a single thing I wanted to do."

It sent a shiver of fear down my spine.

I will never be like that, I thought. I'm going to live free and experience so many things! I'll buy a van and travel the country, no ties.

I knew a woman when I lived in Santa Cruz who was voluntarily homeless. She needed all of her money for college. She worked full time, went to school and lived in her van. At the time, I thought that was a really cool idea. She was brave and bohemian, somehow breaking the mold, willing to do whatever she had to do to get her education. She was fearless.

In the late 60s, I traveled to San Francisco during the Summer of Love and saw the hippies hanging out, smoking dope, selling things on the street ~ living in freedom. I thought yeah.. that's how life is supposed to be.

Things have changed since those many years ago. Or maybe I've just grown up.

I now see the dark underside of it. I've been duly educated through a variety of sources and I no longer have any romanticized notions of "voluntary homelessness".

Geez, I was such an idiot!

Homelessness is cruel. Homelessness is soul-sucking. Homelessness is something that shouldn't be allowed in any civilized society.

But the real question is the solution. I have my own ideas on this and they include the "r"-word, one that dare not be spoken outloud. Not in this day and age. Simple kindness isn't going to solve the problem.

And I recognize that we all face the possibility. What would most of us do?

Have you ever thought about that? What would you do if you became homeless?

I admit this much. I am a new soul and not a very strong person. I would not survive homelessness. I know this. If that happened, my life would be over.

What would you do? Really. Think about it.




slouching mom said...

I'd fall apart. Without question.

My well-being is highly dependent on the cushion of security that enables me to sleep on a bed in my own home, eat when I feel like it, stay cool if it's hot, etc.

Isn't all of ours?

ellie bee said...

The idea of being homeless is, well, simply unfathomable. Its one of those deep fears that I have--not being able to provide for my children (and a roof over their head is part of providing for them). I just can't imagine it--the concept of being voluntarily homeless is totally insane to me--seriously, I never imagine that anyone in their right mind chooses that lifestyle, although I know they do. It is just not a choice I would voluntarily make. Yet, currently most people live just a few paychecks from homelessness. It is really scarey to me...

jen said...

damn. too bad...i've been in meetings all morning and just made my way here for the first time, and i absolutely know i would have been interested. i wish it could have lasted till lunchtime!

flutter said...

Chani love, sometimes I don't get a chance to read you until later in the afternoon, others may be in the same predicament...just something to keep in mind. I would have been really interested in reading this


thailandchani said...

SM, I am in exactly the same position. I know my limits and that would definitely be beyond them.

I used to obsess about it. Seriously. When I was in Tucson, I had such a terror that it would immobilize me.

In my logical (but not always very bright) mind, I thought... develope a contingency plan.. what if?

I never came up with a viable plan.


Ellie, I think it's kind of insane,too, from this vantage point.. with more age and life experience. When I was a kid, it just seemed kind of romantic and bohemian. As I said, I wasn't the brightest star in the sky.


Jen, sent to your private email. These are all very valid points, I know.. so I will wait until late afternoon to post.

I have to live with both my limitation and make it right for others, too.


Flutter... I understand. From now on, no posting until late afternoon.

Sorry to present this way.. but seriously.. after I deleted, I went for a walk and realized that it is just something that doesn't work for me to have it sit that way.

This, in my mind, is a discussion forum. If I put out a topic that is not generating discussion, I've failed..

.. and I'm a sore loser.

At the same time, the points you and Jen raised are entirely valid... so policy from now on, is no posting by me until late afternoon. :)

Sent the post to you in private email.



Julie Pippert said...

I would survive.

I like my cushy life, with all of its conveniences and will choose ease always as much as I may.

But I would survive.

I think the point that the college-going-living in van lady is living in, as you said, a sort of voluntary homelessness is valid to consider in some way. However, she shouldn't have to choose between safe shelter and housing for a future. Regardless, the effect it has...maybe it's different, as is the outcome and so forth because it was the decision (temporarily, yes?) she made rather than a chain of events sucking things out from uner her piece by I making any sense?

Regardless, I think you are right, it's not romantic. It's a dreadful choice. I haven't ever thought of it as such, but we also grew up in different times, and I haven't seen th epost you referred to either to know how it might be seen as romantic.

I would never choose homelessness. It would have to happen to me, and that would be...dreadful because it would be preceded by a terrible chain of events that would have to crush me and make me feel so powerless.

And it is usually a chain of events.

That's why I'm always so unhappily amazed that it does happen.

How can it be that in this area alone 500,000 people are able to qualify for the Power Shut Off Moratorium this summer. That is how many are within 125% of poverty! Here!

How can it be that so many people end up without housing!?!

jen said...

I know i would survive. Would I be happy about it? No. Demoralized? Yes. Pathetic and whimpering? Certainly.

Given my profession I'd know the hoops to jump and how to move forward, but it would be painstaking and heartwrenching and a slow descent into hell. But given what I've seen from those who emerge victorious, I know too the other side. I know it's possible to climb back out of homelessness and to in turn be an example to others.

And there for the grace of god go I.

QT said...

I would survive it too. Not gladly or happily, that is for sure, but I could do it.

Choosing "homelessness" or a bohemian lifestyle is certainly no where near the same thing. Because when the weather turns bad, and you need to shower for the first time in weeks, that is a changeable situation. Someone who is truly homeless does not have that luxury.

Snoskred said...

Well, I was asleep when all this happened, so I missed it entirely. I hate to be the one to say it but I think you can't think of this as a discussion forum - this is a blog. If you want a forum let me know, I can set one up for you. A blog can never be a discussion forum. There's none of the mechanisms you need to make it that way. There's no email notification when someone else posts a comment. There's no "show new comments" button. You're relying on people doing these things manually.

A blog by definition is where you get to express things. Blogs back in the old days didn't even *have* comments at all.

I appreciate that you get a lot of feedback from people here but you seem to be thinking that is some kind of meter of your usefulness - it is not a failure to put a post and not get comments within a short amount of time. There are blogs out there, I'm not kidding Chani, that NEVER get comments at all. NEVER.

As you know sometimes the readers (like technorati) can delay posts getting to the people who read them by quite a large amount of time. Also as you know, people who love you and read you every day sometimes do have things in their own lives which means they can't be here within moments of your posting. Unfortunate, but true.

I don't know what time you posted this, but I slept for 12 hours, and then got up, had a shower, made breakfast for the other half who was off to work. Within moments of me sitting down at my computer, your blog was open on my screen.

Please, Chani, give people at least 24 hours to read your posts before you have a freak out and delete stuff. I'm begging you.

I've said before that sometimes I have got here and needed to think on what you've said before commenting. It's possible that is the case for others too.

I don't know what time your late afternoon is in my timezone, but it's possible that might be the time I go to bed, who knows? You can't take all this so personally, it'll mess with your head in a major way. I don't want to see you go down that path.

On Wednesday I posted a post which was very personal for me. Even though I thought a few times, I should delete it, I never did. I will never delete anything I post. I've made a commitment with myself on that one. In my mind, it's the wrong thing to do.

The sore loser bit of you is one part of you that's not worthy of you, Chani. Throw it out. Replace it with something newer and better. :)

thailandchani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tabba said...

Chani, I have thought about this seriously in the past few months. Because I feel we are but just a paycheck or two...a month or two from complete ruination.
Hand to mouth. That's how we get by. It's so hard to make it these days.
We don't shop at the mall.
We hit goodwill very often.

That being said, I don't know what I would do.
We have a lot of family around that I don't think living on the street would be an option.
I've thought about it.
What if we didn't have family?
Where would we go?
And many times, shelters are segregated (from my small knowledge of shelters) by sex...women/children in one. Men in another.

Chani, I don't have an answer.
I don't know how I would do it.
I don't know how I would walk my kids through such a thing.
And that's what gets me like a kick to the gut.
Imagining me trying to do it is one thing.
Imagining me trying to do it with my babies is almost more than I can handle.

thailandchani said...

Jen, I wonder if there is some sort of way people can find out those things. Maybe it's information we all have to have these days.. unfortunately. We're all at such risk. I'm certainly aware of my vulnerability. Without SSDI, I'd be sunk.


QT, that's a really good point. Also, like the woman in Santa Cruz, she had a lot of friends around her. She was always eating somewhere, showering somewhere. She had keys to someone's house to do her laundry while they were at work.

You know, the whole thing...

I certainly don't romanticize it anymore. That lesson's been learned... but I still feel like the whole idea of homelessness is just so.... ugly.. and cruel. At times it's hard to get beyond that.


Snos, this is really big.. and I appreciate your input very much. Your logic is helpful.. but right now, I am still in "feeling" mode... not quite thinking straight. I'll come around and ultimately make a rational decision .



thailandchani said...

Tabba, I agree. You know, I'm alone. That makes it much easier. I could put a bullet through my brain and it wouldn't make any difference.. but to have kids????

It's unimaginable.. and it's despair beyond my ability to grasp. If I look into that abyss, I'll fall in.

I was thinking about asking Jen to guest post here... to give people some sort of ideas. What if it did happen? Maybe if someone has a last chance at a google search.. they could come up with .. something. Some straw to grasp. Beyond that, I can't imagine. This whole thing has me in so much pain, I can barely breathe. Seriously, I've been breathing like a kitten for the past four hours... and I can't stop crying. This is a huge, huge subject.

I shouldn't have even brought it up.



mitzh said...

If ever it happen to me, I'll probably broke into million pieces but as human I know I'll survive..

We all do...

And a part of me really feel bad that homelessness is like a disease spreading fast and it's sad that some of us choose to close our eyes..

Christine said...

who knows what i would do. crumble probably. but there is this little place in my head that thinks i could hack it. but who knows, and i hope to high heaven i never actually experience that pain. but one truly never knows.

I'm confused about the afternoon verses morning posting.

Well, when ever you post i love to come and leave my two cents at your beautiful place.

have a great weekend, be back monday.

thailandchani said...

Mitzh, do you think perhaps sometimes people might close their eyes, not out of indifference, but because the pain of it is simply too powerful?

There are times when I have to turn the world off... or I would go insane.


Christine, I altered the morning posting. Sometimes I don't realize when I overextend my own boundaries and begin to freak out a bit. So I delete or alter. It's just self-protection.

I wish I could say that I'd be able to handle homelessness. Somehow, I just know better.




meno said...

I think i might survive for a while, but throw in some kids to taje care of and i would be lost. I couldn't bear to do that watch my kids live on the streets.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have been awfully close to it a few times over the years I was raising my children alone. I learned to be extremely resourceful and to be what self-help types call "a survivor."

It remains my worst nightmare, though. And I also wonder sometimes what I could have accomplished in my life if I hadn't had to spend so much energy on simple survival.

There is a great deal wrong with a society that is willing to spend billions daily on war machinery but allows its weaker citizens to live on the street like garbage.

brgarren said...

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