“Look Mummy, a Homeless.”
“This is no way to live your life,” she says righteously, as though I actively chose this, as though I wanted it. She acts like I’m living the way I do just to be stubborn, to spite her, I’m just the black sheep, the stubborn kid sister.
Well, she’s off, and why would she suddenly start treating me like a sister after all these years in the first place? Totally sus, not sis, she’s old enough to be my teen mom. Yes, my life right now is more like waiting for the sweet call of death than it is like truly living, and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, nor is it a complaint.
I work very hard every day to make the best out of my lot and I’ve gotten quite good at turning lemons into orange juice, and that isn’t easy without the comforts of a home. Comforts so many take for granted. Like anyone who would take my situation and make it about them.
I’m only her half sister though, the orphan one, the ward of the state one, the one that’s easy to dismiss and doesn’t bruise easy. It was folly for me to have anticipated anything better. Better isn’t for me, I’m told this all the time, though I’m not sure I buy it.
Here by the grace of God are we, my daughter and me, living in this church parking lot, knowing full well Gods people could pull the rug out from under us at any time. They let us be in this box in their parking lot, it wasn’t meant to be forever, damn pandemic.
Booting us into the streets wouldn’t be very Christian of them, but I’ve come to learn, people actually can surprise me, with their cruelty, assumptions and ignorance. People in my circumstances are sort of always waiting for the other shoe to drop, because it usually does.
Truth is, no one really wants to “help the homeless,” they want to offer the canned goods they forgot they ever even bought, and peanut butter, for some reason, there’s always peanut butter.
They want to donate a bag full of that stuff, once a year, and write a check, effectively paying their dues to dismiss us. People don’t want to see us, interact with us, God forbid, talk to us face to face.
If most folks see someone walking along that looks the part, they say, “Look, a homeless.” The “person” part of it has been removed by current culture, that’s how far removed from it they have to be.
I’ve seen the meth addicts, smelled the drunks and listened to the enraged and deranged, the ones who think the world owes them and if everyone won’t take care of them despite them putting in absolutely no effort, they’ll rape the system for those checks and make everyone pay.
Sure, there are a lot of homeless people just like that. The ones screaming at trees they think are growing out of the middle of the street. Those three toothed, heavy drinking, meth-faced mother forkers truly do exist, but they aren’t all of us.
Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.
I want to say, “they are the few,” but as with so many other things, I’m not sure the good outweighs the bad in current, overly-corrected, cancel culture. What I am sure of, is that it’s easier if people don’t think of us as humans, then they don’t have to be humane to us.
If we are humans, we’re like them. If they acknowledge that we’re people, it hits too close to home. If we are like them at all, they have to acknowledge that what’s happened to us, could happen to them.
Did I ever expect to live in a tiny trailer, smaller than your average prison cell, in a church parking lot with my daughter? No. Yet here we are, my daughter and I, thrown away, discarded with less fanfare than recycling gets.
We’re not only literally living in a box but we’ve been put into a box, check marked “worthless.”
So people have to justify the way they treat us by turning us into what we are not. They turn us into worthless pieces of trash who should die sooner rather than later. I’m not trying to be dramatic, these are the words coming out of their mouths, I’m directly quoting what we’re regularly told to do, “go back into your trash hut and die.”
There are myriad ways, more colorful and disgusting ways, in which these public servants wish for us to exit the world and they make sure we know it. All the while, they tell us what they have that we don’t. Once a woman screamed at us for twenty minutes about her fifty thousand dollar home, her nails and some other stuff I don’t remember. She kept saying, “Look at you in your two dollar shirt!” It was actually a really nice forty dollar hoodie.
They tell us we are drug addicts, alcoholics and that we are too stupid to function in this world. They assume we are uneducated and diseased, but they are the ones with dis-ease. We do the best we can in each moment, we don’t tell people to go and kill themselves, and we’re the bad ones? They tell us we deserve this, it’s our own fault, but it isn’t.
Still, nobody really wants to help people like us, or more to the point, see us get the help we need. We’re meant to be kept in our place, like any other marginalized part of culture. Poverty doesn’t give a toss about race, gender, religion or anything else. Poverty is as merciless as Mother Nature but far less forgiving, there’s no rebirth after destruction with poverty, just people kicking you in the head every time you manage to peak over the rim of the hole you’re meant to stay in.
The system is broken, (so are a lot of the people, and not just the homeless ones.) I am not, but it’s doing it’s best to keep me in my place, no “program” in place works for anything other than that purpose; keep the poor, poor. Keep the have-nots, NOT having.
The system didn’t put me in the box check marked as ‘worthless’ either, that was culture itself. Like I said, no one wants to acknowledge that we exist because then they have to acknowledge that they’re like us, and no one wants to be like us. Here’s the tricky part, we’re just people. Just people.
To effectively help the homeless, people would have to start by changing their attitudes about homelessness, and people are not ready for that, they just aren’t. They’d also have to change the assumptions that have been pounded into their wee brains, which sounds judgemental, but once you know the ASSumptions they’re making and the tenacity with which they cling to those assumptions, even without evidence, you come to understand.
Helping the homeless is about more than a bag of groceries and a check that ends up lining the wrong pockets. The programs themselves need to be changed, people themselves need to change their attitudes on both ends of the issue.
Perhaps start with acknowledging the fact that we’re all humans just trying to get by. To really “help the homeless” takes a commitment of time, energy and ideas, as well as a change in attitude, seeing homeless people as people is good start.
For most, admit it or not, this change has to be a big one, the type where you find out who your real friends are. It isn’t simple, not all homeless people are created equally. Then, neither are all housed people. We’re still all people though, humans, where has acting humanely gone?
Is it only for the post? Only for the video? Only on Sunday or whatever day you chill with your God? Only when it’s convenient?
You aren’t who you say you are if all you do is say it.