Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Holy Crap!

I just got another long screed telling me that I must accept jesus or spend eternity in hell. Do you hear yourselves? Okay, look, save it for someone who wants saving, because I will never, under any circumstances, publish those comments. Here's a lovely film called Stairs to no end. Let it be my response to every comment of this type.

This does bring up an important point about homelessness. If you seek help for your physical problems (shelter, food, clothing) religious exploitation is never far away. If you legitimately want to believe, far be it from me to tell you not to, but you should not have to sell your conscience for a cot. If you are young and unformed in your philosophy, avoid indoctrination in exchange for comfort. The comfort is cold, and the mental game is hard to shake. The religious have been preying on the weak for a very long time, and they are very sophisticated.

When you are cold and alone the allure of an all loving, all forgiving, forever completely attentive caregiver is hard to beat. In the end, though, for most of the faiths that target the homeless and the young, you just become their tool, and get everything taken away from you. Stand on your own, and the rewards are your own.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Coming Out

The problem of coming out is the same no matter what secret you are hiding. When you are keeping something from the people you care about that is intrinsic to how you live your life, it means that you are alone. Being alone is painful.

You would not be keeping your secret if you were confident the people in your life were capable of understanding and accepting it. Coming out to people who don't understand or don't accept you can be just as isolating, just as painful, as keeping the secret in the first place, and if the people are cruel, it can cost you even more.

Anyone you come out to, you give a special weapon, a dagger designed to slip into you like a key into a lock. I came out to one of my coworkers, just that I had been homeless in the past and write this blog, and years later he'll sometimes give me a dig about my advice to use sex lube for a waterless shave. The sting of it is far more than he likely intends. That is the hazard.

My beloved grandfather did not understand that I had built a lifestyle I was proud of. He thought of me as a beggar, an addict, a failure. That image only changed after I was married, housed, with children. I know he loved me, but the pain of that misunderstanding is almost more than I can bear even to write about in this entry.

My father doesn't get it. He wants to edit my blog, and becomes irate with me if I choose not to publish his comments on my articles. I gave up trying to explain some time ago. Even the people that do accept and understand that I was homeless and unashamed, don't understand that I am proud of what I did, and of this blog. They don't understand how profoundly personal the blog is. There are exceptions, a best friend here, a relative there, sometimes my wife, but in the main it passes understanding. You, my readers, have shown a far greater depth of understanding than the people who know me. Strange, isn't it?

Everyone will advise you, unasked, unwanted. It is hard to prove to people that you are okay. There's something fundamentally wrong, immoral, unsettling, maybe unnatural about being happy and homeless. You want to explain it, because your story forms a foundation for your opinions and your values. You want to tell them that they shouldn't joke about the homeless, and that they shouldn't judge them. You want to tell them it could just as easily be them, they could face financial trouble that puts them out, too. You want to tell them there's more than one way to be homeless. There are dozens of solutions to the problem of shelter, and not all of them involve a mortgage.

You want to tell them, but mostly you can't. You can come out, but they won't get it. The people closest to you will use it against you in casual ways they don't even realize. It is like being the only atheist at a revival. It's like being the only gay guy in a group of married straight friends. It might be a little bit like being the only ethnic person in a white social circle. Even if they all forget it, you never do, and you always believe it informs how they treat you. You become forever separate. Every slight, intended or not, however small, starts the struggle over again from scratch.

So if I've told you about my homelessness, you should know that I've given you a high compliment. I've made myself vulnerable to you in a fundamental way. And if you are homeless, take care who you tell. Once they know, there's no going back.