suburban homelessness & ethos ethics

[This post is part of Rethink Homelessness, written 5.29.12]

It occurred to me as I was typing notes from an interview with a friend who has been homeless in suburbia, I shouldn’t be doing this at home.  My friend said one of the places she frequented while homeless was Starbucks.  She kept a coffee cup to hopefully get a few free refills and to look like she had made a purchase, basically trying to “fit in.”

I drove to my local Starbucks.  Keyword: drove.  Not all homeless people in suburban cities have cars.  Now I’ve met people at Starbucks before and not made a purchase.  I’ve even gone as far as to bring my own latte in from home, of course, in my Starbucks mug. Let me finish before you judge me.  I’ve always depended on the people I’m meeting with to make the necessary purchases to absolve my guilt for freeloading on their air-conditioned space and free wi-fi.

Today I decided to buy a bottle of water.  I’m not really thirsty, but I don’t want to freeload.  I’m not meeting anyone here, so there’s no one to make the required purchase.  Why will no purchase be okay when I’m posing as a homeless person?  Will I struggle with that?  My friend did.

My Ethos water cost $1.95.  Ouch!  This will not be in my homeless person budget of no money.  Even on my normal person budget, I don’t buy bottled water, especially one that cost almost $2.  The bottle says, “Helping children get clean water.”  I’m feeling a tiny bit better about buying it.  I wonder how much of my money goes to that cause?  I looked on the bottle and found my answer.  5¢.  That’s less than 3%.  The graphics suggesting you buy this water to help thirsty children takes up at least 30% of the space on the bottle.  If it cost 30¢ a bottle to make (that’s being generous) and 5¢ is going to charitable causes (not quite as generous), the profit on this is 82%.  And just to add insult to injury, the bottle is made out of 100% new plastic.  Nothing recycled.  I’m feeing a little sick to my stomach right now.  [End rabbit trail]

So here I am with my expensive water, writing and doing my research on suburban homelessness.  Wait.  What is that on the table behind my non-recycled water bottle?  My first homeless meal!  I’m not acting as a homeless person yet, but from what I’m told, this is the treasure you spend your day seeking.  Leftovers.  In any form or fashion that doesn’t include mold.  The tiny pre-packaged portions of food contain dried fruit and a nut medley, unopened inside a much larger plastic bag.  I’m really going to have to get over my environmental mindset and boycotting all things disposable.  Oddly enough, I’m more concerned about being wasteful than eating out of trash bins.  Please don’t ask me to explain that because I doubt I could.  Continue reading

a street retreat and a midlife crisis?

[This post is part of Rethink Homelessness, written 5.23.12]

I guess I have a midlife crisis on or around my birthday each year.  It seems as though I make big life changes around the same time every year.  I bet any therapist could have a field day with that info.

Here’s part of my journal entry from May 23 this year.  I didn’t realize I started thinking about this on my birthday.

5.23.12

I can’t sleep.  It’s 5:20 a.m. and I’m thinking about living as a homeless person.  I have no idea what to expect, but does any person going into a homeless situation?  It’s a little bit of fear and some apprehension.  When God was passing out the fear chips, I clearly forgot to stand in that line.  So what will it be like to live as a homeless person?

I decided yesterday to do a little homework before throwing myself out on the street.  What am I trying to accomplish?  I want to learn more about this.  I guess I’ve never felt “at home” many places in my life and I typically don’t belong in our society in the way everyone else seems to fits in.  I’m the square peg living in a neighborhood of round holes.

I’m not sure why I think this experience would help because all in all, I know I have a place to live when my week, or however long this is, is over.

I’ve heard of some people doing these “street retreats”.  I’m not sure how the name retreat got in there, but I’m thinking it’s not a retreat, it’s more of a defeat for people that really have to live this way.  Anyway, I hope I can do something good with this.

Have you ever heard of a “street retreat” or been on one?

rethink homelessness

Let me start by saying I’ve never been homeless.  Rethinking homelessness for me is knowing there are people in really tough situations without a home, and knowing I’m a few paychecks away from the same thing.  I’m a middle-aged single mom, living in a nice suburban home in what is considered to be a wealthy area.  Many people think it’s odd that I ponder this social issue so frequently.

In my community, there are no homeless people on the street corners with cardboard signs, nor are there people living under the overpasses.  There are no visible signs of homelessness in many suburban areas, so does that mean homelessness doesn’t exist there?  How about poverty in the wealthy suburbs, is that non-existent in suburbia?  No.   Suburban homelessness does exist.  It’s an invisible, underground world, where belonging in your own community is a fairytale and where your very existence is illegal.  Continue reading