Friday, July 30, 2010

Homeless, Part I : The 3 Big Questions

The following was written back in February, 2010, one year after a former friend literally locked me out of the home we’d shared for three years—fruitfully and peaceably, I thought. Her doing so occasioned nearly a year and a half of homelessness, thankfully now over.

On the anniversary of the event, I wrote a long letter to my mom. What follows is extracted from that letter. I'm posting it because, on re-reading it, I was struck by how alone I must have felt, how alienated, how disappointed with the society I thought I knew.

It’s important that people unlock these kinds of reflections by putting them on the Web. There’s a wealth of experience out there, waiting to be shared so that others, feeling isolated, can come to realize they’re not unique, not singular, and not alone.

The letter was very long, so I'm going to serialize it into three four parts.

Homeless, Part I : The 3 Big Questions

Well, here we are—February, the anniversary of Lauren locking me out. It’s always a terrible month; now it lives in infamy. I doubt I'll ever make it through a February without remembering.

It’s a disorienting experience, being homeless. I never thought it would come to this. But then again, I wouldn’t, would I? No one plans on being homeless. I'm hardly the first person to have landed in this state, scratching his head and wondering how the hell I got here.

Where did I go wrong? What have I done to deserve this? What do I do now? These are the questions I think about every day as I trudge through winter slush to this or that friend’s house. I don’t want any of them resenting me for hanging out too much, so I rotate my visits.

Sometimes I wish I weren’t so aware. I wish I didn’t know my questions sound as whiny as they do. I wish the answer to the first weren’t quite so evident—or do I mean so facile and misleading? I wish the second didn’t sound so Bubbe-ish.

Furthermore, I wish the answer to the third weren’t so occluded. I wish there were an answer to the question What do I do now? A list of steps to fix my situation, a sort of Methodism for the homeless in the corporate age. But no such list exists, except in the collective hard-line fantasy/refrain of get-an-education, get-a-job, and buy-buy-buy. If it were that simple, no one would get stuck.

But to attack the questions out of order...

Question 3: What do I do now?

Simple answer: I haven’t got a clue, although I do know what I'd do if it were possible.

Step one

Find an affordable living situation that isn’t so precarious (or emotionally noxious) that I can’t get anything done. We’re not talking the Ritz. A small clean room with a table, chair and bed would do. Even the bed is optional; I can be quite happy with very little. All I require, in addition, is sunlight and the means to keep my brain productive.

Step two

From said room, I'd do what anyone in my position would: scour the papers and job banks, and keep my eyes and ears open for paying work. We’re not talking career or vocation here. A person with my blend of skills will never earn a living from it, so I'll do almost anything. No task too menial. The only restrictions are a) that it generate enough income to warrant doing it in the first place, and b) that I be fit for it. No point digging ditches if it puts my back out.

Step three

With a modest dwelling place and adequately remunerated work, I'd return to what I do best: writing. Creating new stuff, gettting The Binbrook Caucus “out there”, carrying on with my open-source work. Being me, in other words.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? A list of goals to satisfy the fantasies of any corporate Methodist. But that’s the trouble with Methodism. It ignores the nasty, messy thing we call reality. One wonders how many Harris-ites [Mike Harris, the former Ontario premier who declared war, not on poverty, but on the poor] are familiar with the saying, “To every complex problem there is a simple solution—which is inevitably wrong”?

Next installment: Homeless, Part II : The Arithmetic of Poverty

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