Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Truth About Homelessness

There are few known facts about homelessness, but there are truths about homelessness that can serve us well.

For an understanding of the difference between fact and truth, try a few of the links here, "Difference between fact and truth." To my mind, a fact is bit of information that is accurate and unchangeable, such as 2+2=4. But homelessness cannot be defined in this manner. 2+2 can equal homelessness and can be considered a fact of homelessness, yet 2+5 can also equal homelessness and be just as factually accurate.

Axioms. That's the way to find accurate definitions causes and cures of homelessness.

ax·i·om   [ak-see-uhm]
1. a self-evident truth that requires no proof.
2. a universally accepted principle or rule.
3. Logic, Mathematics. a proposition that is assumed without proof for the sake of studying the consequences that follow from it.

In Math, axioms help us to understand how numbers operate and relate to the world. We know that with the Commutative Axiom 2+3 equals 3+2, that is, when adding numbers, the order of the numbers makes no difference in outcome. But, with subtraction the Commutative Axiom does not work. 7-4 does not equal 4-7. With homelessness, axioms could help us understand how homelessness operates and relates to the world, regardless of what the "facts" are.

Many homeless people are addicts. This may lead people to believe that addictions = homelessness. But there are many addicts who are not homeless and never will be homeless. So we can't state as a fact that addictions equal homelessness, or cause homelessness. Yet the truth of the matter is many homeless people are addicts. What then would be the proper axiom in this case?

There has never been a dedicated effort to properly define homelessness in the scientific community. In the institutions of higher learning we have schools dedicated to "African American Studies" "Women's Studies," we know how to send protons flying at near the speed of light, we have mapped out the human genome, but we know almost nothing for certain about homelessness. The scientific community has come up with cures for a wide range of problems, and works tirelessly to find cures for all other human problems. So, why not include homelessness in these efforts? I think it's time we did.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Contributor: March Issue

For those who don't know, The Contributor is Nashville's homeless newspaper, sold by homeless and formerly homeless people. Working as independent contractors, they buy copies of the newspaper for a quarter a piece and then sell them on the streets for whatever they can get. The recommended price is one dollar. The vendors keep all the proceeds. Several homeless people have been able to secure housing for themselves with the money they have earned by selling the paper.
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Oh my. 30,000 copies of the March issue of The Contributor have been printed. For several months the vendors have proven themselves able to sell out the entire run, regardless of how many were printed. It is certainly a challenge, not to be taken lightly. With better weather coming, all vendors should experience an increase in sales. With just about 100 active vendors, each vendor will have to sell 300 papers this coming month. It could happen. This past month, one vendor sold over 1000 papers. Every week more vendors are being trained and joining our ranks. For anyone who believes that homeless people are lazy, they should pay attention to these facts, all of The Contributor vendors are homeless or formerly homeless people. Selling newspapers is work. Besides selling the paper, homeless and formerly homeless people write the majority of its articles.

The feature story is a most sad one, of a child born into homelessness just a few months ago, yet, while in the foster care system, died. If that wasn't enough for this poor mother to experience, you should read how "the system" added insult to this heinous injury.

Elsewhere in The Contributor are other stories about life for homeless people. Can a gay homeless man truly come out of the closet, if he doesn't actually have a closet? Although I and others have known that Chuck is gay, he wrote a nice article, a declaration of self, about his life. Yes, Virgil, there are gay homeless people.

Mr. Mysterio shares more of his wisdom in "Hoboscope", Ray Ponce DeLeon reviews the movie classic, "Sullivan's Travels," and I made another Sudoku puzzle. And there is much much more - twenty four pages in all. It's worth reading.

Email me if you'd like the solution to any of the Sudoku puzzles.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Homeless Guy Is Still On The Scene

I'm quoted in this article in the Nashville Scene - Suffering In Plain Sight. Please give it a read.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Facts About Homelessness

I am encouraged that so many people want to know about homelessness. I am saddened that I have very little concrete information to report. I have seen many people Google search "Homeless Facts." And so I have too. What I find are many websites reporting different, if not contradictory, information. The problem with finding the "facts" about homelessness is that homelessness is constantly changing. Although a river is a river, you can never step into the same river twice. The same can be said of homelessness. Different people, different conditions, different public responses, all have an effect on the make up of homelessness. So often when searching news reports on homelessness I can find on the very same day a report in one city of a new homeless shelter being opened in response to the growing homeless population, and a report in another city of a homeless shelter being shut down in response to the growing homeless population. Shelter Closing, Shelter Opening.

Despite all that I know about homelessness from my many years experience, there are only a few things I can say for certain. The first is that, despite people's best efforts to end homelessness, the total number of homeless people in the United States is growing, and that there are not enough services and shelters to take care of all the homeless people and their individual needs.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Unique Aspect Of Homelessness

Arguably the most surreal aspect of homelessness is not the experience of being without a home, but of being thrust into the limelight and being made a public figure. Like it or not, once you become homeless you become the focus of intense local and national debate. Everyone seems to have an opinion of homeless people, and every aspect of your life as a homeless person is considered fair game to be scrutinized, discussed, and judged in the public sphere. So, not only do homeless people have to deal with all the problems of homelessness, they also have to endure all that having pseudo fame or infamy forced on them entails. And, nothing in the non-homeless world can prepare you for that.

Most homeless people try to ignore it. Some try to engage the debate. Yet some are so repelled by it that they go to extreme lengths to get away from it. But, the more homeless people try to avoid the public eye, the more the public goes looking for them. Around Nashville the one thing you'll hear from the homeless living in camps hidden in the woods is that they want to be left alone. No such luck there. The often talked about “Tent City” just south of downtown Nashville has been made a spectacle. And just the other day I received an email from someone claiming to work for a federal government agency, requesting that I share with them the location of all the homeless encampments I am aware of in the greater Nashville area. (I will not be replying to that request.)

After writing this post it was pointed out to me that all this scrutiny may be the very reason why so few people blog about their homeless experiences. Homeless people are already the focus of so much attention, most of it negative. Why would they purposely stick their necks out even more?

I am of the sort who tries to engage the debate. I do so with the hope that sharing what I know about homelessness will lead to improvements in homeless care, will lessen the harmful side effects of homelessness, and will shorten the time people spend homeless. Of course I would be pleased if what I did ended homelessness once and for all.

Writing about my homeless experiences is my choice and I understand the consequences of putting myself out there. But for all the other homeless who wish only to be left alone, I hope you will give them this consideration.