I’ve been talking about how the #Occupy movement is shining a flashlight on the cracks in the American system and even American culture. I wrote another blog mentioning Occupy Auckland was basically “a homeless shelter draped in protest signs.” Then I stumbled on an article on the internet about how other camps were caring for the homeless. Since the issue keeps coming up, and since these are the people with a voice to express at the camps then we may as well give them the microphone or what the hell are we doing there in the first place?
I would love to see homeless marches in every major city forcing the people and the politicians to literally take a picture of how many homeless people are enduring a life worse than death as the rest of the city is binge shopping. I wish some occupiers would record conversations with the homeless people and splice them into documentaries or write books about them. Either way, we should all be curious to hear what the homeless have to say, because they are our great shame. If we only account for one of society’s sins in this lifetime, let’s account for the homeless problem. How long were we planning on leaving the blood of the homeless on our hands anyway? How many more generations need to pass before we treat this problem like it’s more important than a nipple slip? If we hadn’t set a date to address that problem we could just make it today.
Today isn’t the day to make final long term decisions though. The homeless have been watching WASPs and politicians in the 1% argue over whether or not homelessness was a problem. The average citizen doesn’t know anything about the homeless except what they see in Hollywood movies. The average politician comes from a completely different universe than the homeless. It shouldn’t come as any surprise we haven’t solved the homeless problem yet. We haven’t involved the homeless in the process yet.
Learning about what’s really going on in the lives of homeless people will bring the cracks in the system to light. If we gave the homeless center stage and listened to what they had to say I bet their collective message wouldn’t be that complicated. Contrary to what I said earlier, people are people whether they have a home or not. If they don’t have a home, a job or food it’s pretty easy to guess what they want most in life. What the rest of us don’t seem to understand or at least appreciate because we’ve never talked to homeless people is that the homeless don’t have the things they need because society set the homeless up for failure and abandoned them afterwards.
Narrow is the path and heavy is the door that leads to a job in America. If you don’t have a high school education and the personality to work at the front desk of a Marriot then you’re not qualified to do anything. So the homeless are stuck bouncing between businesses where employers tell them they’re unemployable and street corners where people tell them to go get a job. If a homeless person can find a job, it’s not one that’ll have a retirement plan. They’ll still have to live on the streets where they’ll develop crippling medical conditions. Then they’ll have to pay to go to school to get training, which they won’t be able to afford on an entry level salary (if they’re lucky enough to get that much), and they won’t be able to take out a student loan because they’ll have no credit. A homeless person can’t pick themselves up out of poverty by following the rules…assuming they have the mental and emotional stamina to endure that bureaucratic gauntlet in the first place. And even if they do, they’ll end up spending four fifths of their life working their ass off in debt to buy a fifth of a lifetime of middle class suburban boredom. It almost makes a logical argument to just enjoy today, drink yourself to death and die tomorrow and be gone from this cruel, indifferent world. If it’s a shame that some people look at life that way then shame on the people who put them in the position to have those thoughts in the first place.
If you don’t want to give the homeless a hand out then figure out something else. Don’t just say, “I don’t know how to save your life and don’t care enough to try.” and then walk away. You may be surprised how little some people need or want.
Here’s a snarky proposal for how we can bail out the homeless using the resources America already has. Send all the homeless people to Red Cross style refugee or FEMA camps. Take the homeless human beings who are so crazy the only job they can do is plant potatoes and give them jobs planting potatoes for the rest of the homeless camp to eat. Then give everyone else a job making and selling something simple like the Lighthouse for the Blind does. Then the homeless will have homes, jobs and a stable career paths that go nowhere and yet provides them a sense of security, a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs and a something to do their entire lives. If these homeless flea markets makes enough money they could even buy the land the camp is on and replace the tents with something more humane (but still cheap, like adobe igloos for example).
Then the homeless wouldn’t be homeless or jobless, and the rest of society won’t have to feel any worse for abandoning them than they do for abandoning the human beings barely scraping by in the projects. At least it’ll be something, and if middle class Americans ever end up homeless themselves they can always have a semi-decent leper colony-esque camp they can go to for refuge when nobody else will help them. And Republicans wouldn’t have to complain about giving handouts to the poor and lazy because the homeless would become job creators. I’m just saying if Fannie May and Freddie Mac are semi publicly owned companies then that means the U.S. government holds the titles to a lot of foreclosed properties the homeless could put to good use.
On the other hand, if we put an ounce of effort into giving the homeless good quality homes and meaningful work we could build homeless tech parks so cool rich people would want to use them. Then the WASPS complaining about not being able to find meaningful work or affordable housing could step out of line for the next cubicle and step in line for a condo in the next luau themed office camp.