Almost any person who have lived in or visited an urbanized society has come across the homeless. Usually clothed in out dated fashion, often stained
or torn, and just as often mismatched and ramshackle, we have all seen them moving about and doing whatever it is homeless people do. I have actually
worked a few homeless shelters in my youth, and have been very “broke” (I don’t call it poor, because I am always rich so long as my mind is my
own and my efforts are mine to keep). So when I say “whatever it is homeless people do”, it isn’t that I don’t know, but rather that most
Growing up I had the benefit of the exposure to a man named Ray Bell. He was the pastor of the local Presbyterian church, and the father of my best
friend. He worked tirelessly for the church, and especially the youth group. We would have huge sales, and do all manner of work to save up for
annual trips. Often 2-3 weeks long, we lived Spartan lives, camping out in churches and sleeping on gravelly campgrounds. Half of each trip was
missionary work, and we had the benefits of seeing large cities like Dallas, Houstin, San Diego, Phoenix, etc, and had plenty of exposure to homeless
As well, one summer we worked a week in a homeless shelter in Ft. Worth, living with the homeless in our “off hours” (sleeping in the same general
place, with the same cots, eating their food, etc).
So I have a very strong idea as to what homeless are. However….
….I also worked 5 years in an admissions unit of a mental hospital that was state run. If a cop picks up someone for a petty crime and finds that
they are acting crazy, they brought them to us. Of course, this meant we got plenty of “homeless”. Except, this isn’t an urban area. This is
very rural, for hundreds of miles. There are a few urban areas such as Lubbock and San Angelo in the catchment area of the hospital, but nothing like
a metro. So what I had was homeless that were very little like the homeless I had dealt with earlier in life. Many of these “homeless” were the
way they were by choice. Often, once a cop harassed them for vagrant laws they would just play crazy to get an easier time (hospitals are far easier
than jails, for sure). They were just people that moved about, annually and seasonally, to stay ahead of the weather and above the opportunities.
Sometimes you may see them working a carnival or fair. Sometimes walking through town with a backpack and a dog. Truly, they are not like you and I
(or, what I presume you to be like, anyway, since you have a computer and internet connection available to you). I don’t mean this in any negative
sort of way. What I mean is, the life they have either has made them approach things differently, or the way they approach things has led them to
lead that particular life. Sometimes there is a manipulative/exploitative tendency in such folks, but often you find them fairly honorable, at least
in their own ways. My general observation has been that they live such a life to avoid pressure by the legal authorities of our nation, or to not
have to answer to a boss or a wife, or the demands of a child. Of course, my experience, broad as it is, is still very myopic when trying to analyze
My point here is, is such a person truly “homeless”? I am not talking the completely insane person who is in such a condition due to not knowing
any better or an inability to care for oneself. I am talking about the folks who just live meager lives, move about from place to place, and
generally are only seen as they walk up the highway with a bag on their back.
And it is as I pondered this that it occured to me: such people are not homeless. They are just human.
We like to classify things in relation to other things, and it is no different with people. “Normal” society is that you grow up, get a job, get
a house, get a family, and acquire things while taking trips. Anything that doesn’t adhere to this basic model is abnormal, and therefore shunned.
But is that actually the “normal” for a human? Until a few thousand years ago, not really. As a matter of fact, in some places on Earth, to live
a somewhat solitary and nomadic existence is still seen as wholly normal. And, quite often is an act of spirituality.
Regardless, sometimes when I see that person walking up the road, in the middle of nowhere, I feel a tinge of jealousy. To be free….free from
responsibility, free from the grind of the daily job, free from the burning desire to make things (food, art, useful items, etc), free from the love
of other people. I know it sounds lonely, and I don’t intend to sound as if I don’t like the life I have. But there is this little Walter Mitty
inside of me that lives vicariously through others.
However, and back on point, the classification of “homeless” has begun to puzzle me. I have started to wonder, is being homeless so bad? How many
homeless actually choose their life? How many “homeless” actually find their home to just be in a different spot every day? While I would assume
that those locked into urban homelessness are living more of a curse, I would also assume that they are just people with viewpoints adapted more
towards that lifestyle.
edit on 7/12/11 by masqua because: Title edit by request