I love writing. I love sharing ideas and stories. There is power and cathartic healing in the written word. Today however, I find it more valuable that I quit hitting the keys and share a piece that was passed along to me by a dear friend in Tennessee. Miss Tess Anderson presently resides in Knoxville and with the assistance of the Volunteer Ministry Center Tess no longer calls the streets her home.
The Uncommon Modern Plight— A Condition of Homelessness
by ©Tess Anderson™ August 2013
It is often second nature and taken much for granted to be able to sleep in the warmth of one’s own bed, to live with creature comforts of the luxury and conveniences of a modern home, with all its appliances, electricity, and plumbing. We don’t think about it much unless something goes awry with it. In contrast, the extremes of weather; scorching heat of summer and the frigid cold of winter with the bare streets of concrete immovable bridges of steel are exposure to all things intrepid.
Demoralizing and degrading, those who are indigent or in the condition of homelessness have found themselves in an uncomfortable temporary condition, which does not discriminate with gender, age, ethnic, social status or education level. Homelessness can happen to anyone, anytime. Through an event caused by unseen forces or by some bad personal choices we have made on our own, our bad financial decisions can be to our peril and put our normally comfortable lifestyle at risk. One day we have our own residence and comfort zone, the next day we find ourselves in a predicament. It can decimate and nearly destroy complete households including children.
It is cathartic to write about the condition of homelessness, humbling and unusual. Very few readers will understand or relate to the topic of being without a home. It is so unpleasant, that we can be in denial of its existence. Let us not be naive. As we drive down any street in any town or city, I could tell you that a grove of bushes and trees (as in Knoxville, TN) harbors people and gives them a place hidden from view to sleep at night. Any bridge with room to accommodate could be someone’s sleeping quarters; winter, spring, summer fall, it does not matter, nor does the weather. The indigent have a way of life that is not by any means acceptable by mainstream civilized culture. To ‘camp’, rather than reside in housing is rough and dangerous. The elements are at anyone’s mercy let alone those who prey on weaker individuals. There is little if no peace for the homeless person. Lost, is the innocence a person once knew. It is hard to erase the memory once living on the streets. The rank smells, sounds and filth of the streets tend to haunt my memory. The romantic whistle of the locomotive brings to mind, being high above the street and tracks with trains passing on schedule unaware of my presence through the night, as I slept under the immovable steel beams of a bridge. To give an address as “Bridge Street” is a bad joke. Unless we are numb to all tragedy, visually witnessing the yellow tape encompassing a murder scene that occurred close by under investigation for days, we fall prey to depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Another day, a man nicknamed, “Rooster” hung himself in a tree, set over the edge by the demons already in his head, by one more event he could not cope with.
As we have heard, many people are just one paycheck away from disaster. In any subculture anyone can get caught up in bad influences. The longer one stays with others in a scenario such as this the situation, the longer one will remain the same and not change or will grow worse. Alcohol and drugs exist readily as any place else. Some get caught up in drinking mouthwash as the cheap way to supply a bad habit. This is a sad reality. A “road dog”, wears the title proudly. Those who have been homeless for years take pride in what they call themselves, however superficial it may be. No one likes to be needy or wanting. When we think of human beings we like to think of them as productive, creative beings living to highest potential reaping rewards of fulfilling lives, prospering in their achievements. We are all vulnerable and society frowns mostly because it is the seedier and repulsive sides of our core existence that they see. To rise up from a situation such as this takes extreme desire, the proper financial resources need to be in place. A strong support system that specializes in this area can take a person a long way where alone effort can fail.
Time does not exist the same way we are used to it being. Day, night, weekend, weekday and holiday run into one another very slowly; in hungering and thirst. The next meal is sought out day after day. Organizations, usually churches provide one meal, clothing, blankets, hygiene, and other survival items. One is cut off from local, international news and music. The friendships we know are bare bones socializing. It is stressful and boring. As long as the condition is present there is not much we can do in prevention. Some of the most prepared individuals have landed in this way. We can only hope that organizations that specialize in this can do their jobs better to help more. As in the topic such as pain being a subjective one, the topic of homelessness is one hard to relate to unless having had direct experiences which no one wants.
To support a worthy cause consider donating non-perishable easy opening foods, bottled water, unused clothing and hygiene items to a local pantry or homeless shelter in your town or city.
“We cannot change the present or the future. We can only change the past”, Bob Dylan in an interview this past year, with Rolling Stone Magazine.