Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ending Homelessness, Final Stage: Getting Housing

After the homeless are accepted by the community and begins to accept the community around them, the final stage to ending homelessness is getting people homes. However, this is more complicated and more individual than any of the other stages.

Why is housing the final stage? Because if we don't meet the stage of meeting survival needs, the homeless don't have the time to take care of their housing properly. And if there is no community involvement there is no support to keep them in housing. And if the homeless aren't educated and trained, then they will not stay in housing. If we just give the homeless an apartment, most of them will lose it unless there is adequate foundation.

And even at this final stage, there is still work to do before housing is obtained...

An experiences social worker needs to sit down with every homeless person to determine a program to get them inside, permanently. An interview will need to be done, discussing the homeless persons’ struggles, needs, employment history, family, housing history, health and more. After the interview, the social worker might make an overall recommendation for a track that the homeless person might go in. One track might be employment, another mental health, another rehabilitation and another social security. Then the social worker and the homeless person can determine what specific programs the homeless person might need in order to reach the goal of escaping poverty. The overall plan might include many steps, including obtaining ID, support groups, a mental health evaluation, addiction assistance, volunteer work, education, employment assistance and a housing recommendation.

There are many different kinds of addiction helps out there, and every person has different kinds of needs that the rehabilitation could assist. For many people, especially serious alcoholics and hard drug users the first step is a detoxification program—this assists a person with a medical detox so they don’t die in the midst of kicking their addiction. After this, there are many options for those struggling with mental addiction. There are work rehabs that offer a combination of full time work and twelve step programs (Salvation Army’s ARC). There are religious programs that work on relationship and religious education (Victory Outreach). There are outpatient rehab support that offer the most flexibility (Many hospitals). There are other kinds of in-patient facilities that provide basic structure and some freedom (DePaul Center) There are also low-key communities offering support and help with life skills. And, of course, there are 12 step programs and other kinds of support groups, religious and secular. For those seeking rehabilitation, the right program should be sought. This means that familiarity with all the programs in a broad area should be known and discussed with the person seeking rehabilitation.

Like rehabilitation, housing is not something that can be determined on a cookie-cutter basis. For some, an apartment is too complicated or too enclosed. There are a variety of different kinds of housing that might work for someone who has lived on the streets for years. Some might want to live in a drug and alcohol free community camp (Dignity Village). Others might want to live in a “halfway” house, which offers some of the flexibility of homeless culture, but some of the security of the middle class (Anawim Christian Community). Others might need to live in homes that focus on living in a clean and sober environment (Oxford Houses). Others might prefer to live with family, if that is offered. Others might want to live in religious communities (The Simple Way). Again, the many options should be available and sought.

Post-homeless counseling-- One of the greatest crisis periods for a homeless person is when they are able to obtain housing. Often, when the homeless get housing, the recently homeless develop depression, guilt, illness and recurring addiction issues. An additional support group helping the post-homeless to deal wit their issues is essential if the homeless are to remain housed. A post-homeless plan should also be laid out and support should be given to achieve it.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ending Homelessness, Part II: Community and Independence

It is easiest just to provide basic services, but poverty will not end for those in need if their basic needs are just provided for them. There must be larger support networks. Just as one of the ways people become homeless is by not having a support network, even so, a support network of community must be formed if the homeless are to escape poverty and to be accepted in the community. So this means that the there must be a variety of ways that the community and the homeless can associate and be educated about each other and how to live together. Also, besides simply providing for the homeless, the community must be providing means for the homeless to help themselves, so they can be independent, even if they are still living an alternative lifestyle.

Welcoming communities—The homeless need communities that they can feel welcome in. There are so many communities that look at them askance or are so formal or well-dressed that the homeless don’t feel comfortable. Some communities need to be open and willing to even seek the homeless to join them. This could be churches, synagogues, or other faiths. It could also be book clubs or chess clubs. It could be 12 step meetings or other kinds of help groups. As long as the homeless know they are welcome, a few will seek the shelter and comfort of community. As well as the coffee.

Community education—Every community has their own misinformation about the homeless, and most housed communities are fearful of the homeless. Education pieces in churches, community groups (such as the Optimist Club) are essential. But to connect to the entire community, it would be helpful to have newspaper articles or even television ads.

Advocates with local government—The homeless and those who work with the homeless should have a group that communicates their needs and concerns to city hall, local police, neighborhood associations and even the state government. This may not change policy, but it can communicate that the homeless are equal citizens with everyone else.

Volunteer Training: For those working with the homeless in day or night shelters, there should be training opportunities, or even required training in the following areas: Basic information about homelessness, preventing prejudice against the homeless, conflict resolution and preventing conflict, relational v. service mentality, preventing burnout.

Service opportunities—It is essential that the homeless feel ownership in the services that are providing for their needs. This gives them self-esteem and it assists how they are seen by the community. Not only that, but the services themselves benefit by having those receiving the services providing input in how services are given. This means that the homeless should be volunteers in shelters, serving food, working on community projects and being on advocacy and networking groups.

Labor—Since one of the most important issues for the homeless is un- or under-employment, there should be programs to give the homeless opportunities for employment. However, different homeless have different labor issues. Some need day labor, but others can’t even work for a whole day. Also some are able to have full time jobs and so just need employment services to assist them in obtaining labor, who will help with resumes, interviewing and other job seeking skills.

Financial services—Some of the homeless cannot trust themselves with finances. They know that they will waste their finances when they get some from labor. They might benefit from some financial services that could help their bills get paid.

Counseling/Support Groups: There are many issues that can be dealt with in a support group level. Not only living homeless in general, but it would greatly assist the homeless to have support groups or counseling services dealing with anger issues, addiction issues and stress management.

Education: Some of the homeless simply need some education to help them get a new start on life. One of the basic classes a number of the homeless could use is basic computer skills. But other classes that might prove beneficial is critical thinking skills (which might be taught through a literature course or a course on everyday logic) or basic life skills, especially in preparation for living indoors. It might be good if a local community college could offer job training skills to those seeking other full time employment. Also, for homeless teens there may need to be a program to get them into public school or to help them obtain a GED.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pieces of the Puzzle to End Homelessness, Part 1

Ending homelessness is like a puzzle. Each puzzle has areas of the puzzle that are easy to see and to put together, and other parts that aren’t as obvious and more difficult to fit together. But all are necessary if we are going to finish the puzzle. Even so, ending homelessness is complex and some parts of the solution are difficult to piece together. But if we do not have all the pieces together, then the goal of ending homelessness will not be accomplished. If we put someone in a apartment, but don’t give them assistance with food and counseling, they will not be able to sustain their place in a home.

The basic steps of providing the needs of the homeless is fundamentally providing survival for the homeless. It is meeting their basic needs so they can go on with the business of putting their lives together. It is best if an entire community work on this as a whole, rather than piecemeal. A piecemeal approach will mean that there is a lot of overlap and unnecessary redundancy. It also means that where some services will be provided in abundance, other services will not be provided for at all. For this to happen, one of the foundations of helping the homeless is a networking group that will keep all the groups in communication with each other.

Food: Providing food is the easiest and most basic level for most people who want to help the homeless. Many churches and community groups provide meals, sack lunches, sandwiches or simply snacks for free. With only a few exceptions, food is the one need that is met for most homeless people in urban areas.

Clothes: This used to be a basic resource for the homeless, but having room to store a variety of clothes is becoming more difficult.

Showers: No one can find a job or feel good about themselves without a shower. For most of the homeless, a shower is an occasional luxury, rather than a part of a daily routine. Only a few centers have the resources to provide showers, so this continues to be a need.

Laundry: Because of a limited amount of clothes, the homeless desperately need laundry facilities. Especially during wet weather, when their bedding and clothing is in need of drying.

Basic Supplies: Some of the basic supplies the homeless have are razors, deodorant, sun screen,

Day shelters: The homeless need a safe place to be during the day where the police and the community won’t be harassing them, and a place where they can have some structure. It is also good to have a central place where they can be found to do labor or provide services.

Night Shelters: Of course, the homeless are most vulnerable to the weather and those who wish to harm them at night. A place where they can sleep safely is important.

ID assistance: Every community should have one or two experts in obtaining one’s identification if it is lost or destroyed. The homeless are especially vulnerable to losing ID, and will need to have both assistance and small financial help to obtain their ID back.

Health clinics: Free health care with doctors on staff is important for any group that does not have insurance.

Mental health clinics: Given the large number of mentally ill on the street, it is important to have a mental health clinic, which includes mental health evaluations, available to those without insurance.

Dental health clincs: A significant area of health that is often missed is dental health. Poor dental health can not only effect one’s teeth, but lead to other kinds of illness and mental health issues.

Medication aid: Most hospitals and clinics don’t have a program for a full run of medicines, even antibiotics. A program should be established for those with low income to obtain prescriptions at low cost.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Culture, Gospel, Homelessness and the Middle Class

Some may be offended by my description of homeless culture, because I am giving to them a cultural norm which, in some ways, seems immoral. Some may feel more distant from the homeless than they were before. Some may feel justified in blaming the homeless for having the culture they do. What I have tried to do is to explain why they have this culture, not to justify it, but to explain it. Yes, some of these cultural mores are strictly immoral, no matter how I may explain why it seems necessary to the homeless.

However, to blame the homeless for these cultural mores is to neglect our own cultural excuses for immoral behavior. Why do we think that if a person is unable to pay a utility company that they should be charged more? This is not only immoral, but idiotic. This would make sense if the person was refusing to pay, but if they are unable to pay, why charge them substantially more? Because, in our society, money is the base commodity of value. This means, first, that to charge someone is to communicate the value of something, whether it be an ice cream bar or a late payment. But this means that those who have less money are fundamentally less valuable, and so they have less say as to how society runs than those who have more money, who are clearly more valuable. This is a value of American middle class and upper class society, and it is basic to how it works. This leads to immoral actions because it is a fundamentally immoral principle. We can justify it by explaining economic theory or the development of politics in American society, but we cannot justify it.

The fact is, Jesus and the gospel stands apart from every culture. Every culture, from the standpoint of the gospel, has positive points and negative points. Every culture has their ethical aspects and their immoral aspect. From Jesus’ perspective, one culture has no real right to judge another culture, because they are both blind to their own immoral presuppositions.

For this reason, Jesus’ first public word is to repent and believe in the gospel. We need to look at our own culture and see the repentance we need to do, more than point at other cultures and complain about how immoral they are. We need to recognize what Isaiah recognized, “I live among a people of unclean lips.” Our culture has corrupted us by their own evil standards and thus we have participated in the everyday evil of our culture. It doesn’t matter if you are homeless or wealthy, white or black, immigrant or citizen, European or Asian or American or Hispanic or Slavic or Indian (East or West)—every culture is immoral, every culture has its good points. We can analyze them objectively against either a common standard or God’s standard as communicated by Jesus, but we cannot say that our culture is better than theirs. Nor do we have a right to swallow up one culture because of its immoral aspects or because of its incompatibility with our own.

Rather, we need to encourage all cultures to follow Jesus. Yes, we want people to believe in Jesus, but we also need for the world to realize that Jesus points us to a better way for us to live with each other. Not everyone will believe in our theology about Jesus. This doesn’t mean we need to write them off as human beings. Not only do we need to give them assistance when they need it, but we can show them the way of Jesus as a way of life.

An excellent example of this is Alcoholics Anonymous. Almost every principle of the 12 steps are actually principles of Jesus that are re-contextualized to secular language for addicts. It speaks of dependence on God, repentance, reconciliation, community, accountability, forgiveness and even evangelism. It is not a complete gospel of Jesus, but it is a contextualized semi-gospel that speaks to and revitalizes a hurting sub-culture. A gospel of Jesus, as marginalized as it is, as weakened as it is, is still powerful enough to bring healing.

When most people approach homelessness, they do one of two things. Most will just try to meet the most basic needs that are easiest to fulfill. This helps the homeless in their day-to-day needs, but it does not, in reality, alleviate their poverty, nor bring real transformation.
The second approach is to try to make the homeless middle class. This approach is done by both Christians and non-Christians alike because our cultural values and beliefs are actually stronger than our gospel values and beliefs. We don’t see Jesus’ gospel as actually redeeming the homeless in the needs they have, and so we offer them the middle class, which specifically meets what the middle class thinks the homeless needs most, which is, interestingly enough, accommodation to the values and standards of the middle class.

That which is most frightening to the middle class is that the homeless might not want their values, that they are fundamentally of a different culture. So they want to train them to be like the middle class, and give them “mentors” or teachers to train them to be middle class. I think this is in error, for they will be teaching them not only the positive aspects of the American middle class values—hard work, following laws, etc—but also the weak aspects of the middle class—self-reliance, importance of the nuclear family, a skewed money value.

Rather, we need to do as Jesus said. We need to first evaluate our own culture by the gospel, repent of our own wrong values, before we can tell others how they should rightly live their lives. (Matthew 7:5—“First take the beam out of your own eye and then you can see clearly to take the speck out of theirs.”) We need to repent of our own cultural blindness.

Then, when we approach the homeless or any other culture, we must attempt to give them the values of the gospel and not our own cultural values. We can offer them the deliverance of Jesus, not the deliverance of our powerful, but oppressing, society. We must separate our culture from our gospel, to offer a pure, undefiled religion that comes from God and not our values that mix in.

Then, when we truly understand the gospel apart from our values and have repented of our immorality, can we translate that gospel into the language and culture system of another culture. When we have gone through the process of cultural repentance and gospel conversion ourselves, then we can understand what it means when we ask others to do the same. And when we do so, we do not do it on the basis of a culture that feels that they have a “burden” to replicate their culture, as if their culture is what saves. Rather, we offer the gospel as those who are poor ourselves, and in desperate need of the salvation of Jesus ourselves. We come, not from a place of power, but a place of humility, seeing our own weaknesses and seeing Jesus as the real answer.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How Shelters Dehumanize

Please read these two descriptions of nights in a shelter:

Shelters Are For Someone Else 1
Shelters Are For Someone Else 2

However we treat the poor, that is how we treat Jesus. When Jesus or His angels come to visit us, is this how we want them to be treated?

When we establish a shelter, let us treat people with dignity and respect. This means that our context has to be one of dignity as well. Posting a hundred rules communicates something. So does insisting that people listen to a sermon before they fill their empty bellies.

We want to help, so let us help. If we want to show Jesus, then let us show love.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Homeless Culture: Not Responsible For Debt

A street person might collapse. Someone calls 911. An ambulance comes and takes them to the hospital and they are treated. About two weeks later, they receive a bill. Actually, a number of bills. All together they equal a minimum of a thousand dollars. But the street person has no money, no regular means of income. Rather than burden themselves with guilt about a debt they cannot pay, they ignore it. The bills keep coming and they keep throwing it away. Perhaps there is a slight amount of guilt about the bill, but the practical fact is, they can’t pay it.
Most hospitals have programs to help pay for such bills. But with those programs come a lot of paperwork, which most people on the street can’t fill out on their own. Soon, if there is any bill, any debt, it is routinely ignored. They figure that they wouldn’t have much use for a good credit number anyway.

But there is still a small amount of guilt about the debt for many of those on the street. For this reason, they generally avoid any kind of debt. If they are sick, they try to care for themselves, rest and take what few medicines are available to them. But they don’t go to the doctor, because that requires money—a lot of it. And they just don’t have it.

Interestingly enough, even after a person is off the street or obtains a regular income, this attitude persists. Debts are something to be ignored, not held responsible for.

What Kind of Water Do You Drink?

World Water Day Video

Did you know that a billion people in the world today don't have safe water?

That millions of people in China and Bangladesh have natural arsenic in their water?

That one fifth of all children under five in Africa die because they don't have access to clean water?

Pray for those who need clean water, that they might obtain it.

Support organizations that create clean water for those who need it.

Learn more about the need for clean water

Act now to assist those who need water

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Homeless Culture: Telling Authorities About Crimes

Probably the worst crime of any homeless person is to be a “rat”, that is, to tell the authorities of a crime of another. This is because most of the homeless see everyone on the street as some kind of criminal, so to be a rat is hypocrisy. But it is also a general acknowledgment that injustice should be dealt with inside their own community and not to bring in outsiders.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homeless Culture: Distrust of Societal Authority

The homeless have been roused by the police in the middle of the night to be told to move, or simply to be threatened. They are often rousted by the police, even if they are doing nothing that would even give suspicion of criminal activity. They could be ticketed or arrested by the authorities which puts them into the justice system. Once in the justice system, they are often given fines or requirements they cannot fulfill, which keeps them in the system and frequently gives them jail time. Churches may seem to want to help, but most volunteers, secretaries and even pastors are overly authoritative, disrespectful and angry to even be dealing with the needs of the poor. Government help is bureaucratic and often too complex and insisting in too many requirements for the homeless to fulfill.

All of this builds onto a basic distrust of all authorities. Among the homeless communities, authority is not questioned because it is already assumed that authority is manipulative, self-serving and rejecting. This does not mean that there is not the desire for justice, but it is rare that one of the homeless community sees that there is a possibility of justice in societal systems.

This also leads to a resistance of authoritative action. If someone insists that another obey them because they have authority, the homeless person will automatically resist this approach. They will insist upon reasons they can understand, not yelling, not a title, not violence. While someone with a gun or a title might convince them to act in a certain way, it will never develop into respect or obeying the authority for authority's sake.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homeless Culture: Regretful Use of Violence

Almost all of the chronically homeless decry violence, but they almost all acknowledge that violence and threats are at times necessary. Almost every female homeless person carries a weapon for protection, although they rarely find it necessary to use them. Many of the male members of the homeless community find it necessary to defend their honor or the honor of their closest companions through violence. Most of the leaders of group camps find it necessary to occasionally use violence to create order. This may belie the statistic above which states that the homeless are convicted of less violent crime. What that statistic really means is that the homeless have learned their place in society, and they will rarely, if ever, use violence against the middle class. But violence between the homeless isn’t that uncommon, but because violence is seen as a form of communication or even sport, then violence within the homeless community is not reported to the authorities.

Homeless Culture: Honor Highly Valued

As part of the patriarchal system, one’s reputation and show of respect is primary. Every member of the society expects a basic amount of respect given by all. Respect is granted through proper acknowledgement, requesting and acknowledging favors. Disrespect is the worst kind of sin in the homeless community. Disrespect can be shown through insisting upon authority not granted, taking of one’s property, disregarding one’s good act, ignoring another’s presence, insults, or speaking negatively about another person.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Homeless Culture: Patriarchal Culture

The chronically homeless is almost the only segment of society which is dominated by single men. In the broader homeless population, single men make up 51 percent of the population, but most families, women and children drop off in less than a year. It is mostly single men who find homeless to be an option for survival. This does not mean that women do not also find themselves to be homeless for more than a year, but it is more rare. Among the chronically homeless, in my observation, women only make up less than a third of the population.

Because of this, chronically homeless culture is testosterone-driven. Because of the lack of children, men are less providers than protectors, but they are primarily protectors of their own reputation. Although women are not considered property, women are often expected to follow the values established by men or to face violence. Physical abuse of girlfriends or the girlfriends of friends is relatively common.

On the other hand, some women adapt to the patriarchal value system by taking on male power traits. These women are treated as equals, or even superiors in a matriarchal sense. All women also are protected by the ethics of the society from violence from outsiders or rape from anyone.

Homeless Culture: Infrequent Bathing

One of the hardest aspects of living on the street is taking a shower. Showers are available, but they are either infrequent or not free. Thus, showers more than once a week are seen as a luxury. Over time, some homeless might seen cleanliness as simply unnecessary, and won’t take the effort to get a shower, even if one is available.

Most of the homeless love the opportunity to get bathed, however, and see it as a comfort. I have heard one person on the street say, “If I had my own place, I would take five showers a day.”

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Homeless Culture: Loose, Rough Clothing

The homeless have a “look.” This look is practical for the weather. They tend to wear layers, with the outside layer being loose fitting. The homeless also tend to wear military gear, because it is made to be durable and good for outdoor living. Because they get clothes from thrift stores or for free, many of their clothes have holes and thin patches, which is another reason for layers. Many of the homeless wear many layers of clothes even during the hot months because they don’t have a closet to store clothes, so they wear them all.

It is important on the street to be practical, because survival is most significant. However, some homeless aren't just interested in surviving, they want to look good, too. As one of my friends told me, "Just because you are a bum doesn't mean you have to look like a bum."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Homeless Culture: Disrespect for the Homeless

It is a common concept for most communities to have prejudicial ideas about the homeless in general. The homeless are considered lazy, addicts, criminals and general ne’er-do-wells. These stereotypical ideas do not cease necessarily when one becomes homeless. The ideas persist, because they see some people who meet these qualifications. This means that the homeless will often define themselves as a group by these same stereotypes that they are wrongly characterized by.

One of the ways that we know that it is not true is that individual homeless usually see themselves as being the stand out from the rest of their community. “Sure, they are all like that, but not me. I’m still the same as I used to be.” They see themselves as hard working, while others are lazy. They are moral, while others are immoral. This is partly because in these areas there is such a variety of work and a variety of moralities that it is sometimes difficult to see others as actually having something that they have an alternative form of.

And when a person gets off the street they either look at their friends still on the street with either disrespect or pity. But they see themselves as “different” now that they have an apartment or a job.

Blaming the Poor for Poverty

This is an article I wrote for Leader Magazine, an MCUSA publication:

As we are driving down the road, we approach Tom. He is on the street corner, holding a sign, which says “Homeless. Anything helps.” He looks dirty and disheveled. His face is sad and tired. Just as pity rises in our hearts we think, “But what made him homeless? What keeps him homeless?” And the first thought we come up with is addiction.

Now we see Tom in a different light. We look for indications of alcoholism or drug use, as if we could see into his soul and see a black patch of wickedness. Somehow, we shake off this idea. We remember that we don’t have the right to judge another human being. So we take a bold move. We decide to park and talk to Tom.

“Do I drink?” Tom chuckles at the question. “Well, sure. I drink a 40 ouncer every night so I can get to sleep. Overnight, when it’s so cold that it creeps into your bones you need something. Some nights, I just sit up wondering who is going to approach me. The police might come with their dogs. I’ve had friends attacked by strangers in the middle of the night. I realize that it isn’t likely for these things to happen, but I don’t want to be kept awake by my thoughts. So I drink a beer every night. I can’t afford sleeping pills.” He laughs. “Heck, if I could afford that, I’d probably spend the money on a motel room!”

“Yep,” Tom admits, “some of my other friends drink a lot. And some of them use drugs. But I haven’t met too many folks who came to the street addicted. I can’t blame the ones who turn to it. It’s a hard life. And we spend a lot of our time just on surviving. I suppose they do that stuff so they can forget who they are and where they are. To take some joy in their lives. I don’t like to have my head in a daze, but I can see why they do it.”

In our society, poverty is blameworthy. Rarely is the attitude stated so plainly as by Bill Cunningham, “People are poor in America ... not because they lack money; they're poor because they lack values, morals and ethics.” We certainly don’t agree with Mr. Cunningham. But we know there must be some reason for poverty. And our society all too often blames the poor for their poverty. Thus is the connection between homelessness and addiction born.

The statistics on homelessness and addictions are difficult to pin down, just as most statistics about homelessness. Some say that only thirty percent of the homeless are addicted, others say as many as sixty five percent are (National Coalition for the Homeless). However, the number is far less than a hundred percent. And it is clear that rarely is addiction the cause of homelessness. It is estimated that at least half of the general population of the United States have some kind of addiction issue, so the homeless statistics are probably more than the general population, but not remarkably different.

To paraphrase James 2:2-4, if we look down upon the homeless, assuming their immorality, but we welcome the housed and middle class with open arms, have we not made false distinctions and become judges with impure motives? Our task is to welcome all like Jesus. Our task is to love our neighbor, providing what help we can.

This does not mean we should act foolishly. When I pass someone like Tom, I keep in mind that my pity wants to give him money, but perhaps money isn’t always the best thing to give him. I’d have to know him better to know for certain. But this doesn’t mean I can’t love when I see my neighbor or fellow Jesus follower holding a sign. I carry breakfast bars or pairs of socks in my vehicle so I can give him something he could use now.

There is always a way to help if we set aside thoughts of blame. “Blessed is he who makes plans for the poor…” Psalm 41:1

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Homeless Culture: Flexibility Concerning Addiction

The homeless find themselves in great stress daily. Their stress is not just about other’s behavior, but about life and death issues. This stress builds up over time and creates depression. Pretty soon, the homeless person is desperate to find some joy in their lives. And they can find temporary joy in alcohol or in drugs. Almost none of the homeless are interested in making drugs or alcohol a lifestyle, but a good number of them fall into that, almost by default.

Because of this, the homeless are accepting of other people’s addictions. They will complain about other’s addictions and occasionally make compassionate statements about their friends stopping a life-threatening addiction. But there is little moral quandary about drugs or alcohol. Everyone recognizes it as a survival mechanism, or self-medication.

And yet, at the same time, there is an underlying current of people constantly trying (and usually failing) to quit their addictions, for personal reasons. And the homeless community support these efforts, even if they find themselves unable to do this themselves.

For all this, it must be admitted that there are a number of the chronic homeless who are not involved in drugs or alcohol in any way. Being a part of the community doesn’t necessarily mean that addiction is required. The actual number of addicts on the street is almost impossible to determine realistically, however.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Homeless Culture: Ethics, Not Law

A person who becomes homeless quickly learns that their economic situation automatically makes them a criminal. It is illegal in most cities to “camp”, which means to sleep outside, even in one’s own car. The intent of these laws is to allow the homeless to be moved about as necessary by the city. Because the homeless are treated as criminals, they develop a casual approach to the law. The law itself isn’t a standard of morality, because they know that not all “criminals” are immoral. Instead, they follow their own morality, without regard to what is legal or not. However, the idea of what is ethical behavior varies greatly, as it does among the general populace. This means that the homeless might be more willing to do actions that are considered unacceptable by other groups. However, statistics show that the homeless are less likely to participate in violent crime than other groups.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Homeless Culture: Immediate Use of Resources

Because resources are scarce amidst the community—money, food, etc.—and the needs of the community are always there, many resources get used up quickly. But because more resources become available quickly, even daily, there is an expectation that resources can be gotten and so they are used up. In the homeless community, resources are not to be saved or reserved, but used. This is connected with the low-level fatalism in the homeless community, for what happens tomorrow is in the hands of fate and what happens is what will happen.

This idea is also given because of the nature of the items the homeless obtain. That which is given to the homeless, or obtained through inexpensive or free means is low quality and is not meant to last over the long term. Food is on the edge of going bad, the socks they are given are cheap, and even tarps and blankets are usually inexpensive and some are even unable to be washed. This only firms up the idea that what one gets is for today, not necessarily tomorrow.

This also adds to one’s ability to give to others. If resources are not for the morrow, then they can freely share with others what they have today.