Showing posts with label poverty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poverty. Show all posts

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Homeless Behavior An Observation


George Orwell, the guy who wrote, "1984" and "Animal Farm" also wrote a book called, "Down and Out in Paris and London".   I am always leery of books that claim to describe poverty and homelessness, regardless of the author.  Most people, even when looking directly at poverty, still don't have a clue of what is poverty and homelessness.  Yet, at the very beginning of "Down and Out...",  Orwell had me convinced that he knew what he was talking about.   The book opens with the following passage:
THE rue du Coq d'Or, Paris, seven in the morning. A succession of furious, choking yells from the street. Madame Monce, who kept the little hotel opposite mine, had come out on to the pavement to address a lodger on the third floor. Her bare feet were stuck into sabots and her grey hair was streaming down. 
MADAME MONCE: '_Salope! Salope!_ How many times have I told you not to squash bugs on the wallpaper? Do you think you've bought the hotel, eh? Why can't you throw them out of the window like everyone else? _Putain! Salope!_' 
THE WOMAN ON THE THIRD FLOOR: '_Vache!_' 
Thereupon a whole variegated chorus of yells, as windows were flung open on every side and half the street joined in the quarrel. They shut up abruptly ten minutes later, when a squadron of cavalry rode past and people stopped shouting to look at them. I sketch this scene, just to convey something of the spirit of the rue du Coq d'Or. Not that quarrels were the only thing that happened there-- but still, we seldom got through the morning without at least one outburst of this description. Quarrels, and the desolate cries of street hawkers, and the shouts of children chasing orange-peel over the cobbles, and at night loud singing and the sour reek of the refuse-carts, made up the atmosphere of the street. It was a very narrow street--a ravine of tall, leprous houses, lurching towards one another in queer attitudes, as though they had all been frozen in the act of collapse. All the houses were hotels and packed to the tiles with lodgers, mostly Poles, Arabs and Italians. At the foot of the hotels were tiny _bistros_, where you could be drunk for the equivalent of a shilling. On Saturday nights about a third of the male population of the quarter was drunk. There was fighting over women, and the Arab navvies who lived in the cheapest hotels used to conduct mysterious feuds, and fight them out with chairs and occasionally revolvers. At night the policemen would only come through the street two together. It was a fairly rackety place. And yet amid the noise and dirt lived the usual respectable French shopkeepers, bakers and laundresses and the like, keeping themselves to themselves and quietly piling up small fortunes. It was quite a representative Paris slum.
Although today's poverty and homelessness has points that make it unique from other time periods, the nature of the people who live in such circumstances seems to stay relatively the same.   I'm talking about the noise, the cacophony of sounds generated by the poor and unfortunate people.  It is a peculiar thing, indeed!

When in a situation that demands a quiet and composed demeanor, the homeless are able to rein themselves in, and behave accordingly, but as soon as they are free to do as they please, they are more than likely to stir up a tempest of sound, mostly verbally.  It is as if being noisy is their natural state.  It could be because so many of the poor and homeless also suffer from mental health issues.  It could also be because poverty and homelessness is very stressful and many people deal with stress by venting their feelings verbally.  It's more than likely a combination of the two.

Still, not all poor and homeless people are loud.   But the quiet ones still must suffer the burden of being in this environment of noise.  For them, the noise adds to the confusion of life.

Last night was Friday night, but on the streets you wouldn't need a calendar to tell you what day it was.  There was a significant change in the people in my "neighborhood" - the increase in the noise, over the rest of the week, was obvious.  Being that today is Saturday, another weekend day, I expect tonight to be much the same as last night.  At least the mornings have been quiet so far.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Much Worse Will Things Get?

Today I walked the 1/4 mile down to the Bethlehem Center where they have a Second Harvest Food Bank distribution center. And upon arrival I found the door closed. And so did a couple others who arrived about the same time. One person went inside to the Bethlehem center offices where he was told that they had given away all their food and that they had closed down their food pantry permanently. This is a real set back for the whole neighborhood, which is made up mostly of people living in poverty.

I don't know where the next closest location is.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The God Of Money

Now, many if not most people, when conjuring up an image of a God of Money, would consider that God to be sinister if not out right Diablo - the Devil. But a strange thing happened at a Bible study I attended last Friday, where this Christian man of God - an associate pastor of a Presbyterian church declared that God is a Capitalist.

Crazy? Yeah, you bet. Worse, he defended this idea only with what he himself had observed during the past 20 years. He said this because, from what he's seen, life has gotten better for people in the past 20 years. He made no use of actual scientific economic studies. He is, though, an employee of one of the most affluent churches in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the country. I seriously wonder if he's spent any time with actual poor people. He does brag of rubbing elbows with extremely wealthy people.

Funny, he didn't always have this point of view. Only in the past 4 months or so has he converted to "the other side." Sadly the bible study is only a half hour long. Because, I would certainly like to pick his brain some, and try to understand his point of view, and how he came to this conclusion.

Maybe we'll be able to talk more about it this coming Friday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Now Hiring - Sisters Of The Road

Sisters Of The Road is seeking a Development Director. This position will lead the planning, implementation, and evaluation of a comprehensive fund development strategy that generates revenues from a diverse base to support the mission, vision and programs of Sisters Of The Road. At least three years experience with strategic planning and directing a very wide range of development activities. To view the full job description, click here.

Salary $46,301 (plus COLA).

Please send resume and cover letter to Monica Beemer at Sisters Of The Road, 133 NW Sixth Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97209 or email her. No phone calls, please. Position closes 4/4/2008.
People of color and/or people with experience of homelessness and poverty are encouraged to apply. Sisters provides full benefits to all regular employees working 20 hours or more per week and offers a one-month sabbatical at three years of full-time employment. We are committed to the philosophies of non-violence and gentle-personalism.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Poverty Does Not Cause Homelessness

I feel very strongly about this.

The only way to make significant reductions in the homeless population is by accurately defining homelessness. And accurate definitions of the causes of homelessness are rare. I believe this happens mostly because people in the homeless industry come to it with preconceived ideas, either on political, or religious, or other cultural demagoguery. Not only are these people working on homelessness unable to end it, they have the ability to cause a great deal of money and resources to be wasted chasing after shadows.

Although a person can live in poverty his/her entire life, and yet never become homeless, part of being homeless means doing without and living in poverty. And once a person leaves homelessness most likely he/she will still be in a state of poverty. But, poverty itself does not cause homelessness. Poverty is only the environment in which homelessness exists.

Any person who loses a job can get another one. A person who misses a rent payment can implore upon the graces of his landlord for leniency. A person without any money can borrow from family or friends or government or lending institutions, or can begin selling off personal property. Eviction from one's residence requires a court order, which takes 3 months or more to process. For other personal items, like food and toiletries and laundry, there are many organizations that supply these items to those in need. And one does not have to wait until they are homeless before receiving such charity. If the issue is solely an economic one, a person can stave off becoming homeless long enough to reestablish themselves financially, and thus avoid homelessness.

When it does appear that financial ruin caused a person to become homeless, a closer look will reveal that money issues were only a symptom of other problems. The person might have anti-social tendencies that prevent them from keeping a good paying job, or from making adequate bonds with people, people would normally bail out a friend during difficult times. Or they may have addiction issues that actually cause the person's financial downfall. These are the things that can, and do, lead a person to homelessness.

When a person cannot get himself rehired after losing a job, it's not because of the economy, it's because he's fallen into depression over having lost his job - and thus has developed a mental health issue. Homeless addicts and alcoholics have reached the point in their illness that they spend all the money they make on their addictions. So, it would not matter if the addict had a job making 10, 20, or 50 bucks an hour, and free rent - all their money would go towards drugs and alcohol and they would have nothing left for a place to live. And a mentally ill person is just not going to have the personal, or job skills to call on, so to get, or maintain a job.

So, yes, if you haven't already guessed, the idea that people are a paycheck or two away from homelessness is a myth.

Yes, homeless people do deserve sympathy and help overcoming their homelessness. But misleading people about the nature of homelessness is not going help anyone in the long run - regardless of how much sympathy or funding it generates.

Of course, once a person becomes homeless, the state of the economy will effect how quickly and efficiently a person will returned to a housed situation. But that is an entirely different matter.

Don't get me wrong, poverty is a terrible thing, and should be eradicated as much as possible. But even if there were no poverty, there would still be homelessness.

The reason so many people are drawn to the idea of homelessness being an issue of poverty is that the solution becomes both simple and impersonal. In other words, it's easy. How efficient, and sterile, would be the process, if all we had to do to end homelessness was to create a more equal and balanced economy. Pay people more for their labor, and not charge them as much for rent, utilities, and food. Best of all, this approach would allow us to keep our distance from actual homeless people. We would not be required to be their teachers, or mentors, or friends, or anything else to the homeless.

to be concluded...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Nashville Scene Letter

Two weeks ago, the Nashville Scene ran a compelling article Outlawing_the_Poor, about homeless people downtown and the city's attempt to outlaw their poverty. I responded with a letter to the editor, which ran in the paper this week.

For your convenience I've posted it here:

Major Kudos to Jeff Woods for so accurately describing the current state of affairs on Nashville’s downtown streets (“Outlawing the Poor,” Feb. 21). The homeless have always been in downtown, mostly because they have nowhere else to go. For them, it is the end of the trail. Besides the fact that there are no services for the homeless in the ’burbs, the homeless are even less welcome out there. And though there are always non-homeless people in the ’burbs, downtown Nashville is often abandoned after working hours, even with today’s downtown loft dwellers. These residents spend almost no more time on downtown streets than when they lived in the ’burbs and only worked downtown.

The real issue, as always, is money. These non-homeless people living downtown are expecting to make money off the downtown mystique. They bought property downtown, hoping only to resell it in a short time. Others have opened businesses, hoping to make a huge profit on the inflated costs of downtown living. All of which wouldn’t be such a problem except for one thing—greed.

These people, who call themselves pioneers, are actually just profiteers. And they don’t just want to make a living, they want to make a killing. They want to maximize their profits and are willing to do anything to anyone to make it happen. To them, all profit is good profit—regardless of who they hurt in the process.

They wrongly believe that homeless people interfere with their profit-making processes. Sure, they will provide anecdotal evidence, but there is no hard empirical evidence, no scientific study, proving that a panhandler outside a business will hurt that business’s bottom line. An inconvenience? A nuisance? Perhaps. But we cannot outlaw people for being a nuisance—otherwise every human being would be in jail.

Regardless of all the hype, most people feel safe downtown, even with the presence of homeless people. The Nashville Downtown Partnership’s own surveys prove as much.

If interested parties want to see an end to homelessness in Nashville, they could start by reallocating money they spend to hire cops to harass the homeless and put that money into homeless rehabilitation programs that work.

Again, thanks to Jeff Woods for getting the truth out there. Besides knowing the truth of the matter, he writes it very well.