I live out of a car and have been homeless for several years now and one of the things that irks me about homeless service providers is that there’s a disconnect between what they do and what homeless people actually live. Part of that is because many in social services have never been homeless so although they will try to show sympathy for the less fortunate, they simply do not have the same point of reference we do. The other reasons for the disconnect is that this is a job for them that ends when they clock out. There is no clocking out of homelessness just because a service provider’s office closes for the night. The messy reality out here is knowing that Band-Aid services is pretty much the norm out here and no matter how many waiting lists you’re on, people assume they should tell me about this place or that not realizing that after 9 years, I have already checked out those services so telling me or other homeless people to keep applying for the same lack of services is redundant and irritating. See, we’re not interested in constantly wasting our time on being told there’s nothing available. We also don’t appreciate being used as fodder to play the numbers game with government grants, oh yes, we are very aware of that!
It also doesn’t seem to occur to people that it will take us longer to do things other people with resources take for granted. For instance, if you ask me to send back a form to you at my expense and I don’t have the money to buy a postage stamp let alone to send a fax, how does that affect my ability to respond to you according to your timelines? Do you just automatically assume I don’t want the help because I cannot meet your basic request? If I don’t have gas money to get to where your office is located, you aren’t going to see me, period! Most of us out here don’t have people we can just call up to give us a ride or childcare WHEN WE NEED IT so that automatically is a barrier that doesn’t get recognized or is marginalized by people who really don’t get it that we’re stuck. It always makes me laugh when people complain about the appearance and smell of the homeless because apparently, there are free showers and Laundromats on every street corner that we can readily access so as not to look “homeless”.
The other thing that I have observed is the attitudes of people who provide services to homeless people and if you want to automatically get on my you know what list, come at me or other homeless people with a holier-than-thou attitude that assumes you know better than we do what we need. If you don’t live out here and face what we face 24/7, you shouldn’t be talking. We’d rather talk with people who have proven themselves to be safe people to talk to without the air of judgment. We also don’t appreciate half measures to make you feel good that doesn’t do anything to get us off the street or create real housing opportunities. We know you may be overworked and underpaid but if you are unhappy with your job or volunteering gig, why are you in it in the first place? Life is hard enough for us without having to be exposed to your sour attitudes towards us.
Oh and stop giving us “resource” numbers and referrals you never bothered to check out yourself. Playing the deferral rhetoric only pisses us off because it shows that you don’t care about us, you’re just trying to push us off so that you can shut down on a subject you don’t know much about or care to get involved in. We hear all the vitriol spewed about poor folks not being responsible for being poor even though we weren’t the ones who caused the next depression or cutbacks to services that would shorten our time in poverty because the truth is that the longer we are out here, the faster our health declines and the bigger the gap grows in our ability to access jobs even though the reality is that we have to work 2 of them to reach anywhere near escape velocity from homelessness. How do you even reach escape velocity if you can’t get hired? We already know that just throwing money at a problem won’t end poverty but the other reality is that you do need money to create more housing and other services needed to get people stabilized.
So while other people are going on with their status quo daily routines, I, just like other homeless families and individuals out here, are scrambling to prepare for winter and we’re doing that with a barely there budget that will run out before the end of the month and we already know that food rationing and going without is going to happen regardless of how much running around we do.