[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