Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Homeless are Running Out of Places to Exist

I just read an article about how the homeless are now banned from Reagan International Airport.  The homeless are quite simply running out of places to be, it seems.  As property values increase, as the network of security guards, cameras, and cruel infrastructure designs (Such as spikes or bars where people might sleep) becomes more readily available, the homeless are getting locked out.  I imagine that homelessness will simply be illegal in the future, and anybody without an address found on private or public property will be arrested and taken to the last acceptable place for the homeless: Jail.

The author of the article says that we shoo people out of such places because it makes us feel uncomfortable to walk past people with dirty blankets, but I think it goes a little deeper.  I have often thought that the reason we feel uncomfortable lies in the fact that we see ourselves in them.

Every time somebody asks me for help, though I am usually quite poor, I am pressured to give, because I feel like I am failing to be human if I do not.  As the level of crisis escalates, the stakes go up.  I can walk by somebody who needs a couple quarters for a cup of coffee, but what about a guy who has no shoes?  How about a physically disabled woman who needs food?  A child? The stakes go up as our systems of exclusion reach near perfection, and we find ourselves abandoning hard-working families who simply cannot afford housing, even with two jobs.As the pressure increases, those with privilege are finding it harder to say no, and finding it harder to look at "them" without stopping to help.  There is a fear that our families will get caught up in the crisis, that it will tip the carefully-balanced lifestyle that we worked so hard to achieve.  As I've said in previous posts, we are taught from a young age to stay away from ill people, from "dangerous" friends, who may pollute our lives with dysfunction and drama.  This fear of others keeps us from reaching out to help them, and perpetuates the cycle of life-wreckage. 

So we tell ourselves that there are some people we don't want to be associated with, or that there are "some people you just can't help" and that's that.  It would be a simple solution if there was still an "Australia" to "ship your undesirables to". In today's hyper-real estate world, there is really no place for destitute people to go.  The presence of people in crisis negatively affects property value simply because of the stigma of association, and most parts of the world are owned.  Furthermore, the "public" places, such as libraries, parks, and sidewalks, are full of disenfranchised people, because they are the only places that legally allow extremely poor people.  This causes communities to rise up and declare that the parks and community spaces are not meant for crisis, which then prompts new bylaws banning feeding the homeless in parks, etc.  Exclusion leads to exclusion.  We still think that there is some place down the road where the poor old guy can rest his feet, but we don't realize that the place down the road ALSO has security guards and cameras, and other ways to exclude the homeless.  And thanks to cheaper and more powerful technologies, we get better at exclusion every day.

At a certain point, it will become obvious that this is not a working system, and we will be forced to find a place for people to go.  It is a battle being fought in the courts, and I'm sure we will see many changes down the road, because the courts will always rule in favour of humans having the right to exist.  In the end, we will simply give them houses and a basic living wage, because it is cheaper and easier than trying to exclude them.  

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