[Note: This post was written in Portland, and we have seen homelessness here all about, people sleeping in streets and doorways. In one instance we were walking down the sidewalk within a few feet of a bearded and poorly dressed man, and I was approached by a woman hawking some snake oil having to do with travel. I kindly refused her invitation to listen to her presentation. The man a few feet away said “Well, she didn’t want to talk to me.” He knew what what up, his perceptions are keen enough.]
There are nagging problems in this world that seem never to be solved … addiction and homelessness, for instance. I think the underlying presumption in the minds of those we call “right-wingers” and “progressives” is that the person suffering the problem is helpless.
I have already alienated the pwoggies by suggesting that mental illness is wildly overstated, so I might as well go one step further and suggest that helplessness and victimhood are as well.
I don’t truck with right wingers in these matters … I don’t care about bootstraps or economic betterment because that usually involves some form of wage slavery, or what was referred to in the sixties as “selling out.” In right-wing authoritarian type of mind, these problems are solved by getting a job, working 40,60,80 underpaid hours a week in submission to some over-important cracker. That is just another manner of destruction of the human spirit … and not “empowerment.” (But keep at it, son, and some day you too can be a cracker!)
But the pwoggies are no closer to answers with their shelters and shrinks and drugs. These people are down, seemingly defeated, and possibly on the way out. If there is to be redemption, it has to come from inside. If it does not come from there, it will not happen.
It will not be found in drugs, twelve-stepping, religious faith or getting a job. For each person the answer, if one exists, is buried under a life of defeat that results in resignation of the spirit. For each person redemption comes from that same source. To step in that person’s life and “do for” him or her is to further rob the spirit. Just as giving a person money robs that person of ambition, so too does stepping in to solve spiritual problems result in robbing the spirit.
But a bed is nice, and so is food. If we can provide that and dispense with all the other bullshit, maybe these people can find some dignity in knowing that there is a tomorrow. Each one has unique qualities, though perhaps drugs and booze have done so much physical destruction that only a skeleton remains. Even so, the recovery journey has to come from self-leadership and self-discovery. Otherwise, it will not happen.
Keep the shrinks away, however. They ain’t got a clue. Keep the preachers away. They are false leaders. Keep the right wingers and pwoggies away … each has a roadmap to a dead-end.
So I tend to agree that food and shelter are necessary to help the homeless people among us. But that is about all I can offer as a solution, and imagine that I am no closer to the answer than anyone else. These are, after all, complex humans, each one a riddle.