The Conversation & Other Awkward Things You’ll Encounter When You’re Homeless

“You can’t go home?”
“Don’t you have family?”
“So you’re really homeless?”

No, because I’m homeless. Yes. Also, yes. I can’t count how many times I’ve had this exact same conversation over the past year and a half. Their reactions are the same each time. Dismay that I, a homeless person, do not have a home to return to. Confusion that a family could be so dysfunctional as to not be able to (or want to) help a member struggling with housing stability. Slight disgust that they were talking to a gross homeless person this entire time and didn’t even know it.

At first it always took me off guard. Despite the increasing number of homeless people in this country the general public is still somehow not used to interacting with us. So when they do actually speak to us they tend to forget basic manners and proceed to bombard us with personal questions about how we became homeless. In this entire time that I have been homeless I have had few people ask me beforehand if it was okay to ask me about my personal life.

It’s just another small indignity homeless people face. The casual invasion of our privacy, redundant questions about our housing status, and forcing us to relive painful events of our pasts for whatever purpose it serves the person asking the questions. I remain confused about what exactly the goal is in these interactions. They’ve rarely resulted in anything productive. The only conclusion that I can come to is that people just refuse to believe that a homeless person can exist outside of the very narrow stereotype they have about us. As a result I have spent a lot of time explaining to adults how as a homeless person I can’t just “go home.” This isn’t just some rebellion against my family or society. I really don’t have a home. I’ve had to dispel them of the notion that everyone has a stable and caring family they can return to when life gets hard.

Unsolicited Advice

Among the stereotypes associated with homeless people is that we are failed adults. That somewhere along the line we stopped doing what needed to be done to support ourselves. Because of this we are often dealt with in an infantilizing way. People think it is acceptable to tell us to do things, not ask for our input into what course our lives should take, or give us advice that is often useless. This brings me to my next point.

Besides the bombardment of questions, you should also expect a heaping load of unsolicited advice and opinions about your situation. I am commonly told about jobs (I never ask about) I need to apply for even though I already work. I have had to sit through lectures about lowering my standards and not being too prideful to accept certain forms of work. As if me being homeless comes as a result of not wanting to work instead of untreated mental illness, generational poverty, employment discrimination, and losing a major source of income.

I have gotten into arguments with people about why I refuse to go to most shelters. They can’t bring themselves to trust my judgement even though I am more likely to have knowledge on shelters than someone who has never lived in one or who only goes to a shelter to volunteer on holidays. On top of this people will also insist on taking direct action in your life, oftentimes making things even worse.

It all goes back to housed people seeing us as less deserving of the respect given to other adults. Because they stereotype us as incapable they believe it’s okay to step in and take over our lives without even bothering to ask permission to do this. I have had to cut ties with a few people who didn’t understand that needing help didn’t grant them ownership over me.

Suspicion

While the general public believes that homeless people are inept and incapable of taking care of ourselves, they also believe that many of us are these stealthy scammers feigning poverty because we’re too lazy to work. Because who wouldn’t want to bare their entire life story to get help? Who doesn’t want to beg for money so they could eat or rent a room for the night? It’s not at all dehumanizing to ask for help in a society that is obsessed with the myth of pulling oneself out of poverty by sheer grit and hard work.

Most of us are too stressed and sleep deprived to invest the amount of energy needed to scam someone. Our days are filled with either work, finding a place that will allow us to occupy space, or trying to dig ourselves out of the sinking hole that is homelessness. And if we’re being perfectly honest, many of you don’t have that much to scam to begin with. A lot of you are just one job loss or medical emergency from sleeping on the same streets as us.

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

This is an old and pervasive mindset that many people just accept without question. They believe that because our situations are desperate that we are not in a position to object to anything that is presented to us – whether it’s food that doesn’t adhere to our diet, worn-out clothing, or another care package loaded with toiletries that we may not be able to use if we don’t have access to showers. Since homeless people are seen as sub-human, we are not considered worthy enough of enjoying the same things other people enjoy. But we are deserving. Our status as homeless people doesn’t take away our humanity.

Homeless people don’t need for strangers to dig into our personal backgrounds. We don’t need to be given advice that doesn’t pertain to our situation or to be given leftovers no one else wants. We deserve the same respect and consideration as everyone else. If someone is really committed to helping us, they would talk to us and find out what our needs are. Then they would work within their capabilities to assist us. And they would do all of this without demeaning us, diminishing our abilities, or commanding us to do as they see best.

I’m still working towards being stable and donating $5 or more to my PayPal will go a long way to helping me. paypal: rssunjoy360@gmail.com

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Your Liberal Friends Are Racist Too

Before the year leading up to the 2016 presidential election I would have considered myself a staunch liberal and supporter of the democratic party. But in that year I began to see fellow liberals and the democratic party as a whole in a new light. I felt that valid concerns Black democrats had against the party and it’s ineffectiveness to produce enough viable candidates were dismissed. Accompanied by an insolent expectation that despite this the party was entitled to the votes of Black people. In addition to all of this came the pervasive idea that the indignation many Black people felt arose not from genuine concerns that were unmet but from some outside source influencing our thought patterns.

The one that came up the most then and in the two years since is the claim that Russia was secretly behind racial tensions in the United States. I have seen this sentiment echoed in numerous publications, news reports, tweets, and facebook posts. Liberals believe that in addition to Russia meddling in the 2016 election that it is also responsible for racial tensions within the United States.

Behind this claim is the idea that before Russia began meddling in the election that everything was fine. That racism was a thing that happened on a rare occurrence but was something most of the country had progressed from. It’s not only tone deaf and condescending it is also a denial of systemic racism and state sanctioned violence. It reveals that white liberals who claim to be our allies are no better than republicans in their denial of our continued oppression.

This line of thinking has carried over into politics as well. More specifically as a defense against the growing number of Black people that are disillusioned with the democratic party due to its failures to meet the needs of it’s Black voters. It shouldn’t be too far fetched to understand how many Black people can be fed up with a system that only gives us two options. One is the republican party that openly calls for our oppression and the other is the democratic party that has a history of acquiescing to the demands of the republican party under the guise of keeping the peace. Many Black people have grown tired of giving our undying support to a political party that expects and often demands our vote then abandons us the chance it gets because they know that we have no other options.

When Black people criticize the democratic party or say that we will no longer vote for the candidates that are presented to us simply because they are dems we are met with accusations of being Russian trolls. Told that we are responsible for Trump winning the election. We are belittled as if we owe our support to the democratic party. The worst part about their behavior is that they don’t see the racist undertones in these statements.

The idea of Black people as autonomous beings with the capability of thinking and feeling on our own is so foreign to white people in this country that even the ones who see themselves as allies cannot conceive of Black people coming to conclusions that are oppositional to their own. So when we do oppose them we are met with their worst. This is perfectly exemplified by the backlash Black members in their own party experience simply for lending their support to democratic candidates that other democrats dislike.

For example, Nina Turner was kept off of the DNC stage in Philadelphia because she decided to advocate for Senator Bernie Sanders. But this was after she experienced harassment from democrats after it was announced that she had endorsed him. Nina recounted how after an event at Planned Parenthood a woman confronted her and told her that she was a disappointment and that she should be ashamed for betraying the Clintons.

Democrats seem incapable of reflecting on why many Black people feel like a democratic vote is only useful for harm reduction. That their candidates are only slightly less awful than republicans candidates. The blame for the loss of the democratic party is laid at the feet of everyone except prominent members of the party. Im reminded of the slogan many liberals tooted after Trump became president: “If Hillary had won we’d all be at Brunch right now!” It let’s me know that to liberals in the democratic party we are only valuable to prop up their votes. However, we are not valuable enough to have our anger taken seriously. Nor are we valuable enough for them to consider us as thinking beings.

White liberals hold the same racist opinions of Black people as right wingers, they just express it differently. For them racism comes in the form of not recognizing the autonomy of Black people. In my opinion liberals and right wingers are two of the same. The only difference is that one cannot see how much they dislike us.

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Mental Illness And Gratitude

When people vent they have a habit of interrupting themselves to say that they should be grateful for what they have in life. Almost as if they’re embarrassed to not hold every problem inside. I can see why people do this. Growing up a lot of us were probably told to count our blessings in response to us voicing difficulties we face. Or had our problems compared to someone who was thought to be suffering more than ourselves.

For a long time our society has taught people that to voice their troubles is a sign of weakness. I believe this is a problematic pattern of thinking that encourages people to hide from our problems rather than voicing them honestly which would allow us to confront them. It holds us back from being able to grow and for people suffering with depression or other mental illnesses this can be very dangerous.

Many times in the past when I needed to vent about the troubles that came along with my depression and BPD I would be told to just be grateful. That there were people in the world who were actually suffering. Not only did this diminish my experiences but it also made me less likely to seek help even when I was suicidal.

The assertion was that my depression and BPD weren’t really life altering illnesses but more of a mindset. If I were to just change my outlook and be more grateful my mental health issues would disappear. Since I did not want to appear ungrateful I would just remain quiet while my mental state deteriorated.

The problem is a lot of people confuse someone needing help or wanting to process their issues as someone who is simply lazy and would rather be miserable than take an active role in changing their life. However, a person can’t change something that they don’t feel comfortable even acknowledging exists. Another issue is that a lot of people don’t understand what it means to be genuinely grateful.

Being grateful shouldn’t entail a denial of your mental illness. It should not be because you are happy that someone else is suffering more than you. It should happen because you are able to recognize that there are still good parts about life even when you’re suffering.

Teaching someone to be silent about their suffering will not teach them to be thankful about life. Suggesting that gratitude will cure mental illnesses will just prevent someone from reaching out when they need help. Telling someone that they should be grateful others are suffering more will cause them to be less sympathetic to themselves and to others. We must learn how to encourage people to see the joys in life without telling them to deny the parts of life that are not joyful.

I recently moved down to Georgia and due to unforeseen circumstances I am at risk of being homeless. So if you like this post please consider donating to my paypal: rssunjoy360@gmail.com

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Being Homeless In A Privatized World

I spent most of my Sunday trying to avoid the fact that there is a 50/50 chance that I will find myself homeless and on the streets by the end of this week. With the way I tend to obsess over things distracting myself only works for so long and eventually I found myself brainstorming plans on how to survive another winter homeless in a city that I’ve spent less than a month in. This got me thinking of just how incredibly difficult it is to be homeless in an increasingly privatized world.

When I was on the streets last year I spent a great deal of time trying not to look homeless. I wore makeup, made sure that I changed my outfits frequently and that I didn’t smell bad (which is a very difficult task when you can only bathe once or twice a week). I rented out a small storage unit so that I did not have to carry everything with me. Even though I was not enrolled in classes at the time I would spend most of my day at my university so that it wouldn’t look strange if I decided to take a nap.

I did all of this because I knew that once I was “visibly homeless” that life for me would become exponentially more difficult and possibly more dangerous as a woman. Job opportunities would be harder to find, I would be subject to harassment from law enforcement, and housed people would feel uncomfortable with me occupying the same space as them.

The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet,’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.” -John Adams

America has always been a society separated by class and since America’s inception one of the primary distinguishing of class has been land and the ownership of private property. When many of the colonists came to ‘the new world’ they brought with them old ideas of property ownership. Historically, a person’s worth was tied to the land they occupied, both the quantity and the quality of it.

These ideas were so influential that when America was founded only white, male property owners had the right to vote. This was later amended however the idea of property ownership being a virtue stuck with us. Our ideas of freedom, citizenship, success and quality of life are linked to property.

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In a society that overvalues private ownership to be propertyless is to essentially not exist. At least not exist in the same way other people do. Homeless people are seen and treated as deviants who have failed to properly integrate themselves. Or as public nuisances that burden the rest of the population with their presence. This is reflected not only in how everyday individuals treat homeless people but also in how local, state, as well as federal governments choose to treat homeless people.

For example, there are laws preventing religious groups and other orgs from giving food to homeless people without permits. Or giving them other supplies such as blankets or toiletries. As if homeless people are wild animals that the public is discouraged to feed out of fear that they will stick around. Another strategy communities use is to put barriers on public and private property to deter homeless people from sleeping or loitering on it. Restaurants and coffee shops that refuse to allow people to use restrooms or sit unless they purchase something first. Police who harass, arrest, and use excessive force on homeless people knowing that nothing will be done about it. The goal is to make the lives of homeless people so unbearable that they decide to go somewhere else, somewhere that might have less stringent laws in place.  

When you’re homeless your life revolves around finding ways to survive day to day. This causes stress that can impact your mental and physical state and takes an incredible amount of strength to overcome. To live in a world that tells you everyday that your existence has less value because you are not housed makes an already awful situation worse.

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Welcome to my new site

Hello, my name is Regina and I will like to welcome you to my new site. I first began blogging a few years ago after converting to Islam. I wanted to document my journey as a new Muslim and I wanted to fufill a dream of mine that I had since childhood: to be a writer.

I deleted that site a few months ago because that chapter of my life is over. However, my urge to write is still very much alive. I will cover many topics on this site as there is not one paticular purpose to this other than to keep track of my thoughts.

So welcome. If you like what I have to say follow me and spread the word. Btw my grammar is awful so if you have any editing skills and a little free time I would love to have you as my editor.