I am talking on the phone with a peer at another agency about their efforts to stage an event, and the lack of up-take from corporate Calgary.
Homelessness isn’t on a lot of company’s radar, they tell me. Most big companies want to invest in kids, women fleeing violence, the environment. Things that capture the public’s attention and help them feel like they’re making a difference. Homelessness just isn’t sexy enough.
Not ‘sexy’ enough? When was ‘sexy’ ever part of the homeless equation?
Somewhere in our collective psyche is the notion that people fall into homelessness by their own fault. Their own doing. Collectively, we hold an unspoken belief that people don’t deserve to receive any more help than having an emergency shelter to fall back on simply because, what they need to do to fix their homeless state is to clean up, dress up and get a job.
It’s not that simple. It’s not that easy.
Homelessness is not that benign.
Homelessness is a state of being present in a world that has not taken steps to address the issues that undermine people’s capacity to access the resources they needed to live without fear of falling through the cracks.
When we feel strong, when we have access to knowledge, resources and supports, finding our way is possible — no matter where we stand on the road of life. We have enough resiliency to get through the dark times because we’ve been supported in building a foundation that is strong enough to withstand life’s knocks.
People living on the margins, who have never known what it means to have equal access to resources to help them achieve their dreams to not know what it means to be resilient, self-confident, self-determined. Their lives have been limited by the lack of resources, lack of support, lack of advantages most of us take for granted.
In their lifetime of scraping by, of being unsupported, unacknowledged, unseen, they don’t recognize or see resources waiting to be accessed. They are too familiar with doors slamming closed in the face of their efforts to not fall through the cracks gaping on their road of life.
Homelessness is not who someone is. It is not a dream come true. It is a nightmare.
Believing people can fix the potholes and cracks in the road that lead them into their state of homelessness is like telling someone with terminal cancer to stop dying. No matter how hard you wish for it, it isn’t going to happen without a miracle or two and a whole lot of care and attention. Like a diagnosis of terminal cancer, the damage was done long before the evidence was in or someone hit the doors of a shelter.
We humans can be shallow. We can be pack animals. We can be easily lead to judge and label others based on our lack of understanding of what it is that they are experiencing.
Homelessness isn’t sexy.
It also isn’t a choice. It isn’t a decision one morning to get up, jettison everything in your life you hold dear just so you can wander the streets and sleep in a crowded space with others experiencing the same condition, and eat what you’re given when told and sleep where directed and lose your dignity and pride and sense of who you are in the world — if you ever knew it in the first place.
Homelessness is nullifying.
Homelessness is deadly.
It strips you of everything you own, and steals your life from the inside out, one nullifying indignity at a time, scraping away your pride, your confidence, your belief in yourself (if you ever had any) with every grinding step you take.
Homelessness isn’t sexy.
Neither is telling someone when they’re down to just get up, clean up and carry on.
If it were that simple, we’d all do it every time we hit a bump in the road of life. If it were that easy, we would all just pull up ourselves up by our bootstraps and get going on living the dream life we’ve always imagined.
Someone told me yesterday that homelessness isn’t sexy.
They’re right. It’s not.