21 Sep 2000 pulp   » (Apprentice)


Don't have one anymore, at least not for a few months. School ought to be a bit more sane now, though I'll be mourning my paycheck for a while.


Hesitent to get involved with this, but maj's recent comment struck a chord.

I can't speak for San Francisco, so I'll grant the unlikely possibility that it is an utterly different world down there, but the majority of the homeless in Portland, Oregon are not their by virtue of "lifestyle choices." I'm not clear exactly what choices maj was talking about, but growing up poor, having lousy education options, and having no available housing options is not a willful act.

A few years ago, several hundred otherwise Respectable Citizens got kicked out of their low-income housing in the downtown area because a hotel developer bought up the two blocks housing said apartments. These people have to deal with the fact that they cannot afford housing *anywhere* in the city. Boom, Homeless. If some small portion of them can magically spawn higher-paying careers, great, but the rest are screwed until some other option comes along (especially since it can be very difficult to keep your job when you don't have anywhere to sleep or keep/clean your clothes). They can't even camp out in tents because the police break up the camp sites, regardless of circumstance and the behavior of the campers.

A lot of those kids on the street with the nice jackets are holding onto the jackets as solace for the fact they had to leave home or get raped/the shit kicked out of them by abusive parents.

We do have food kitchens, shelters, free missions for junkies trying to get clean; there are some options available to people, if the people know how to get at them and can beat the rush. The capacity of these programs is, however, significantly lower than the supply of people without homes, places to sleep and means to purchase food.

I will not try to make the argument that our homeless are worse off than the poverty crowd in third world nations. I honestly haven't done any responsible research into conditions in other countries, but I'm willing to believe that things can get worse than sleeping on benches and bumming change for a Snickers bar. The reason I can speak up about the homeless is that I've actually spent time with them, had genuine human contact (aside from "yeah, here, have a dollar") with a lot of them. Anyone who tries to argue that the homeless tend to be so by choice are either misinformed or looking at the world from a very strange angle.

Being homeless is pretty terrible; it eats away at otherwise normal, healthy people. Vices usually come after homelessness, because, aside from the emotionally crushing circumstances of having no place to go back to at night, there isn't anything to do. We're talking about extreme boredom, an incredibly dull cycle of long, empty days. This, too, eats at a person. Most people do not have the drive and self-motivation of an Ayn Rand character, so being in the dumps isn't something they can casually claw out of.

Think what you like about all this; I take it a bit personally, so I'm sure this has been a bit ranty. maj's comments aren't utterly out of line, but the only refer to a minority share of the homeless. Try spending a week eating out of and sleeping next to a dumpster if you're really having trouble concieving of how bad homelessness can be.

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