Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Friends & Family

Being homeless does not interfere with personal associations unless you allow it to. The majority of people you have daily business with have no need to know your housing status, and you really should keep them ignorant about it. It is hard, though, both emotionally and mentally, to hide a large part of your life from close friends and family. You're going to want to come out of the closet.

This process is painful, but it really is necessary. It's one way in which you will establish and maintain your personal pride. As long as you hide your homelessness from the people who count, your self image will inevitably be one filled with shame.

When you decide to do this, though, understand that your people probably will not understand. You will get pity, advice, lectures, blame, shock, and offers of help. Be patient. Explain that you are okay, and that while you are grateful for their offers, you aren't looking for pity, advice, lectures, blame, shock, or help. It may be that you could use some help, but now is certainly not the time to accept it, not if you want your lifestyle to ever be perceived as something more than pitiable. You must have pride if you wish respect.

If you establish early that you are not a bum, then later, if you want a loan, a place to weather a storm, or someone to spend the holidays with, you may have your friends and family to lean on. No one likes a charity case. Over time, prove you aren't one.

If you are thinking that this is a little like revealing homosexuality, you're right. It has some parallels. There are some differences too, though. Homosexuals have a large part of the population that is already prepared to be supportive. The homeless do not. Homelessness, however, is something you can probably change, if you care to, while sexual preference probably is not subject to the will. This means even greater blame may attach to homelessness, but you do have an out. In the matter of social stigma and the need to attend to your personal dignity, they are the same.

Stigma is inescapable. If you are homeless, you will be seen as pitiable and incompetent. The only ways to defeat these perceptions are to conceal your homelessness or to defy expectations. Only the wisest among your friends and family will ever truly understand. Be patient with the rest. Understanding is a luxury you should not expect. Remember, you came out as a demonstration to yourself that you should feel proud of your accomplishments, and you should. Surviving homelessness is a feat of daring and courage.


At 2:29 AM, Blogger Shyam said...

What a coincidence, I was just wondering if you were going to write about homeless people and personal relationships! How would it work, especially if the other person in the relationship wasnt homeless? Relationships with family and platonic friends, I guess, would be easier to manage in comparison.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Marke said...

I knew of a man in Kansas City who chose homelessness a number of years ago. He ran his own music studio and actually owned a lot of equipment, which was stored in various locations. But he chose - for a couple of years - to live in the woods just outside the city. I'm told he would ride his bike into the city if he needed to go somewhere, would forage food from the dumpsters behind the bread factories and grocery stores, would bathe in a stream in the woods. He apparently even had a few dates come and meet him at his place in the woods. It sounded so amazing (unbelievable) to me at the time. I always wondered what his dates must have thought about him and his chosen situation.

At 10:37 PM, Blogger xikita said...

I invited you, please let me know if there's any problem. Oh, and keep in mind that the invitation might be in the junk mail folder


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