People are not where they live, or where they sleep
October 28, 2009 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Becky Blanton spent a year in her van grieving her dead father. Even with a full-time job and a writing career, a depression quickly set in which made Blanton feel like a homeless person. How do we define homelessness? posted by l33tpolicywonk (46 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
How do we define homelessness? Not having any income, regular source of food, means of transportation, and living in a shelter if you're lucky enough to get a bed? (or help from family members in providing those things)
posted by anniecat at 8:19 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

True impoverishment is total marginalization, and the crushing hopelessness and anxiety of not knowing how or if it will ever end.

But still you'll never get it right,
cos when you're laid in bed at night,
watching roaches climb the wall,
if you call your Dad he could stop it all.

posted by availablelight at 8:27 AM on October 28, 2009 [10 favorites]

anniecat: any Labor Ready in the US will be full of homeless men doing day labor for an (insufficient for housing) income. And if you can walk through the door of the local soup kitchen you are guaranteed a regular source of food if you can put up with the evangelizing. And a very large percentage of the homeless still have a car but no longer a residence.
posted by idiopath at 8:29 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

How do we define homelessness? Not having any income, regular source of food, means of transportation

Lots of homeless families live in their cars.
posted by delmoi at 8:40 AM on October 28, 2009

The homeless don't have a choice.
posted by mpbx at 8:46 AM on October 28, 2009 [7 favorites]

Also, regarding income source and means of transportation, there are many homeless people in my city who ride a rusty old mountain bike while carrying big garbage bags full of deposit bottles and cans taken out of residential recycling bins. This pulls in enough income each day for food, and maybe some alcohol/nicotine/crack/meth/weed/heroin/whathaveyou.
posted by idiopath at 8:49 AM on October 28, 2009

Defining homelessness is more complicated on the family side where single moms tend to bounce from couch to couch with the kids, doubling and tripling up with family members or friends. It becomes a question of how stable is the current space they are occupying, what are the physical conditions there and how much space is available? When I was working with homeless families these grey area cases were the majority of the referrals my agency took, and we made decisions on a case by case basis. How long could they stay in their current situation? Did they have real prospects for finding something permanent on their own? Were phsyical conditions in the home decent and was there enough space or was everyone piled on top of each other? Did they have child welfare involvement, where they were being compelled to find more stable house at the risk of losing their children to the foster system? Resources are limited so you have to make decisions over who qualifies as eligible for them. This has been a long running debate on the family side, the individual side is a lot more cut and dry. Typically it does come down to whether or not you are in the shelter system. I mean, obviously you can make all kinds of arguments for why conceptual "homelessness" should reach a lot further than that, and I would agree with you, but that's worth fuck all when you can't get a transitional housing referral if you aren't coming from the shelter system.
posted by The Straightener at 8:50 AM on October 28, 2009 [6 favorites]

I remember on the last day of my lease, looking around my empty apartment. Some societally programmed part of me wanted to find some irreplacable convenience there, some reason that I couldn’t possibly give up “the roof over my head”, maybe just to perpetuate the views society had been pushing on me for the past two decades.

Reminds me of this:

So if you're quitting the life,
what'll you do?

That's what I've been sitting here
contemplating. First, I'm gonna
deliver this case to Marsellus.
Then, basically, I'm gonna walk the

What do you mean, walk the earth?

You know, like Caine in "KUNG FU."
Just walk from town to town, meet
people, get in adventures.

How long do you intend to walk the

Until God puts me where he want me
to be.

What if he never does?

If it takes forever, I'll wait

So you decided to be a bum?

I'll just be Jules, Vincent -- no
more, no less.

No Jules, you're gonna be like
those pieces of shit out there who
beg for change. They walk around
like a bunch of fuckin' zombies,
they sleep in garbage bins, they
eat what I throw away, and dogs
piss on 'em. They got a word for
'em, they're called bums. And
without a job, residence, or legal
tender, that's what you're gonna be
-- a fuckin' bum!
posted by KokuRyu at 9:24 AM on October 28, 2009

The Straightener: this is a pragmatic definition of homelessness, and it is begging the question, since the people who made the rules for transitional housing had to decide where to draw the line. For example, that rule of thumb would be less practical in the Pacific NW, where winters are miserably damp, but not as deadly cold, so many people live in tents or in sleeping bags under overpasses or bridges.

Like Ms. Blanton, I have been a homeless person; I made some bad choices, but was not held back by a money-hole substance addiction or a child support payment automatically taken out of my paycheck or a mental illness severe enough to make even day labor impossible and prevent people from trusting me enough to help me out of the situation. From what I have seen among those who were my peers during that time, I would likely still be homeless if any of those things were holding me back. Her point about the transition between "it's being free, it's like camping every day" and "it's miserable and I am stuck and there is no way out" really resonated for me. If it were not for friends who let me use their kitchen or shower or sleep on their couch occasionally or hired me to do some job when my day labor income dried up or loaned me first last and deposit so I could move in somewhere, I would still be homeless, if I was alive.

We have a caste system in this country, and at the very bottom are those who don't sleep in a permanent structure.
posted by idiopath at 9:28 AM on October 28, 2009 [10 favorites]

You know what makes Becky Blanton not homeless? Tim Russert talked about her writing on national TV, which was the push she needed to basically rebuild her life within a year after her experiment to grieve across the country failed.

She says, "3 years ago I was living in a van in a Walmart parking lot." But presumably 4 years before that she had a full-time job that she voluntarily left. That part doesn't matter?
posted by liketitanic at 9:35 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's actually a really awful definition of homelessness that is meant to restrict resources to an extremely narrow population of people made even narrower by the fact that transitional housing requires you to be sober at least 6 months. In fact, almost nobody qualifies for transitional housing, so, not surprisingly, almost nobody receives it, and people who cannot maintain sobriety or are unwilling to enter the inhumane shelter system are kept out on the streets as a result. Shelters and transitional housing do absolutely nothing to reduce homelessness, at least, there is no evidence over the decades that the system has existed in this form that it has. >>Insert housing first advocacy pitch here.<< Sorry, I feel like a broken record with this stuff on here sometimes.
posted by The Straightener at 9:37 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Good lord, how much do I want to punch the guy in the last link. Deciding to sleep on someone else's couch (even if someone else is a University and not a friend) isn't some noble step into non-materialism, it's just freeloading. Sneaking into youth hostels to sleep in them without paying is even worse yet.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:43 AM on October 28, 2009

also, from that glowingfaceman link:

"For a brief overlapping period, I was the world’s premier homeless pickup artist."

I just died a little inside.
posted by liketitanic at 9:43 AM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]

All that's to say, I am happy to think more about what constitutes homelessness, but I don't think it's the experiences of either of these folks. Social capital, friends. Social capital.
posted by liketitanic at 9:44 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I found the last part of the glowingfaceman article the most interesting: the author admits that he too felt the soul destroying shame of homelessness that Blanton describes so eloquently. He says, "I used to be very hesitant to talk about my homeless experience. I was deadly afraid people would judge me harshly for it."
posted by bearwife at 9:54 AM on October 28, 2009

Becky Blanton,
Becky Blanton.
Becky Blanton,
Becky Blanton.

Supermatch quiz,
Supermatch quiz.
Supermatch quiz,
Supermatch quiz!
posted by popcassady at 10:00 AM on October 28, 2009

liketitanic: I think that you are using homelessness as a shorthand for marginalization. Many of the homeless are marginalized, and many of the marginalized are homeless, but clearly there are some people who are one without the other.

The point for me is that even if one has a mostly normal set of social skills, an education, and no mental illness severe enough to be absolutely crippling, one still feels the stigma of homelessness.

This does not mean that my experience of accidental poverty induced homelessness is the same as some grad student's money saving eccentric intentional homelessness is the same as that of a schizophrenic who loses half of every paycheck to child support before he even sees it and cannot maintain any social relationships long enough to get a helping hand.
posted by idiopath at 10:01 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

idiopath, I'm not sure I'm the one doing it--I think Blanton and Dr. Love are, because it's a stigma they've chosen pretty freely. (In Blanton's case, I think the problem was that she was depressed and grieving, not that she was homeless.) I think, fundamentally, the element of free choice--not through accidental poverty, but willfull choice--is at issue here.
posted by liketitanic at 10:04 AM on October 28, 2009

re: the glowingfaceman blog

I am somewhat loathe to take seriously a guy who talks about the "Ohio-wide secret organization of seductors and seductors-in-training" in what seems to be no joking manner. But if he did what he claims to, then I suppose it is somewhat impressive. Takes guts, at least.
posted by hepta at 10:05 AM on October 28, 2009

liketitanic: perhaps I am not making myself clear - to me the point is that homelessness, whether a poor choice, an unfortunate and temporary state because of an accident, a quixotic lark, or whathaveyou, is enough to make you somewhat less than human. There is a stigma that is there, whether you chose the situation and can leave whenever you want or are stuck there with no way out.

Why should someone be less than human because she does not sleep in a permanent structure? Having the other discussion about the tar-pit of mental health, addiction, and hopelessness is important as well, but this sub-issue is interesting to me.

It seems to me that homelessness carries the taint of marginalization and dehumanization, such that even an otherwise esteemed individual is touched by that "unclean" status if they are discovered, for whatever reason, to be homeless.

Addressing this stigma, I think, is an important part of facilitating upward mobility for people who are fully marginalized, so they can make that transition from sleeping under a bridge to having a subsidized apartment when they want it. We live in a society where homeless people get set on fire by teenagers with cans of gasoline. I think we all have much to gain by taking a good look at the dehumanization of homelessness, even when it is not the platonic model of marginalization.
posted by idiopath at 10:19 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

"Housing as a human right
The right to adequate housing guarantees access to a safe, habitable, and affordable home with protection against forced eviction. Without adequate housing, an individual is vulnerable to human and natural forces, compromising other human rights including family life, health, education, employment and privacy. The right to adequate housing is clearly supported by international law, starting with the foundational Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
posted by mareli at 10:25 AM on October 28, 2009

idiopath, I think I get what you mean now. But I didn't find the talk compelling because I guess I just see a stigma differently when it's something you can opt out of. Agree to disagree, etc etc.
posted by liketitanic at 10:28 AM on October 28, 2009

I am currently living in a place that does not completely feel like home. Yes I have a place that I live and by definition, that is my home. It gives me shelter and has my belongings. Its only saving grace is that my boyfriend and cats are here. Otherwise, I am far away from my family and friends.

For me, home is where my friends are and where my family is. It is where my boyfriend is and where my cats are. For me home is more a feeling than a place.

Maybe losing her father for her felt like losing her 'home'.

I am having a hard time braining today, so I don't think I am explaining what I mean correctly.
posted by Catbunny at 10:42 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Personally, I define homelessness as having no permanent residence (if you can't get mail to that address, it's not an address) and no way to put yourself into a suitable permanent address, either for economic, legal, or psychological reasons.

If a person with no home is sane and has enough money to buy a house or rent an apartment, he isn't truly homeless. He's a person with no housing by choice, and as he could choose to go back to living under a roof if he wanted to.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:52 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Home has a multitude of meanings that go beyond merely having a roof over your head. When I was a teenager my parents provided me with housing and food, but they also abused me to the point where I felt compelled to run away. Living on a rooftop in Chelsea (NYC) seemed safer than living at my parents'. Sure, I had a choice, but it was a really shitty choice.

Years later I found myself homeless again, working two jobs that didn't pay enough for the exorbitant rents in my then-community. A lot of other people were in the same situation, an underground network of working people sleeping in cars and illegally pitched tents. It motivated several of us to push for affordable housing, with some success.

More recently I watched neighbors in Florida lose their homes due to unemployment and sub-prime inflatable rate mortgages. I've seen families send children off to live with various relatives because the parents can't find anywhere decent and affordable to live.
posted by mareli at 11:05 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

And a very large percentage of the homeless still have a car but no longer a residence.

People live in RVs. I guess definite proof to being homeless is that you don't have a private bathroom? Then you could probably say a huge percentage of the world is homeless. I guess you'd have to stick in "involuntarily lacks access to a private bathroom."
posted by anniecat at 11:32 AM on October 28, 2009

Why quibble about the definition of homelessness if having a permanent structure to live in is not what you are even talking about? Portland, where I live, has portapotties near spots where many homeless people sleep. If you mean marginalization, say that. Homelessness is one small part of the way someone can be so marginalized as to effectively no longer be treated as human.

Making arguments about what "real" homelessness can contribute to that marginalization, whether that is your intention or not, the same way that talking about what it means to be a "real" black person can be racist.
posted by idiopath at 11:45 AM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]

Because what mareli is talking about matters. Safety matters, too. Stability matters.

Like I said, I think the question you raise about stigma is an important one. But Dr. Love choosing not to pay for an apartment because he wants to game the system seems substantively different to me than your homelessness, idiopath, or mareli's, or that of people who can't, at any time, sign a lease. It seems more to me like any one of a number of inane social experiments in which people decide they can know what it's like to be marginalized by taking on the "qualifications." Like John Howard Griffin. Or like the Food Stamp Challenge. At the end of the day, it seems to me that being able to "go back" to whatever the privileged status is with real uncomplicated ease? Makes a difference. Better or different examples might have yielded a different conversation.
posted by liketitanic at 1:23 PM on October 28, 2009

If you're saying "people who are homeless are looked at and treated differently," I can't disagree. But I'm real suspicious of stigma tourism.
posted by liketitanic at 1:27 PM on October 28, 2009

I agree with you, liketitanic, and it's a really difficult thing to articulate. Is choosing to sleep in the university computer lab because it's more convenient than renting an apartment any different from moving back in with "the folks" after college? Was my brother homeless when he was sleeping rent-free on my parent's couch? He was looked-down upon, as well.

I think the "scary" thing about homelessness is the lack of a safety net. If a person who isn't renting an apartment or a house still has a safety net, then the social stigma might still be there but there's really little danger.
posted by muddgirl at 1:48 PM on October 28, 2009

If you are talking about the lack of a safety-net, then homelessness is a part of something else that is larger; many people with homes lack a safety net and lack essential resources.

An unemployable schizophrenic or addict with an apartment and an SSI check may not be in as much danger of immediate threats to their lives like foul weather and random violence as they would if they were homeless, but if they do not have resources, for advocacy, healthcare, etc. then the real issue is only starting to be addressed.

"Homeless" is seemingly being used as some kind of codeword: is it something we are afraid to address, or is it just a convenient and inaccurate shorthand? The insistence that certain kinds of lacking a home are not "real homelessness" make me think something needs to be more explicitly talked about that we talk around by calling it "homelessness".

Homelessness is just a simple status, like being hungry or needing medical care you cannot afford or not having an automobile or not having a college degree. By itself it is nearly meaningless, it is as a part of a larger pattern of reinforced disenfranchisement that it takes on significance. Imagine if I said "Barak Obama is not African-American, his ancestors were not slaves owned by a white man and none of them even worked on a plantation". I would call that racist, just as I would call arguments that some arrogant grad student was not really homeless classist. Because it is plain to see the grad student did lack a home at one point in time, and Obama obliviously does have African heritage, and the very usage of these terms as codewords is a part of the system that needs changing.
posted by idiopath at 2:27 PM on October 28, 2009

It's interesting that you don't have a lot of homeless people in Chile, for example, which is a much poorer country with an at least equally as crappy a health system as the US. My guess is stronger family support systems, there's always somebody willing to let you sleep on the floor or something.
posted by signal at 2:43 PM on October 28, 2009

I completely agree with the first part, idiopath, and I do think "homelessness" is often used as a code word to mean something completely different.

I guess what I am trying to do is get a definition of what a "home" really is. I'm genuinely wondering if people considered my brother to be homeless because he was living with his parents? Or does the familial relationship make that his home? In the case of Sam Alexander, he was not paying rent for an apartment, but he was paying tuition and fees to use a space, whether that space was an office or a lab facility.

Another aspect, which I guess these stories are trying to combat, is the fact that we tend to see homelessness as an eyesore that needs to be "corrected" - here in San Antonio, for example, we're planning to build a big complex and essentially force a person sleeping on the street to either move to the designated homeless park or go to jail. In the park they will have access to transition services, but the idea of the police department being tasked to round people up and get them off the streets really sits the wrong way with me.
posted by muddgirl at 3:02 PM on October 28, 2009

We have a caste system in this country, and at the very bottom are those who don't sleep in a permanent structure.

Amen. How many times have you been asked for bus/train fare (or some other sort of money assistance) and the guy/woman says "I'm not homeless" or "I'm not a bum." As if being homeless and asking for money would be worse than asking for money when you are not.

Why should someone be less than human because she does not sleep in a permanent structure?

I quote Pynchon too much, but the notion of the "suburban imperative" in Against the Day rings true:

One night in eastern Africa, he was no longer sure where, exactly, Fleetwood met Yitzhak Zilberfeld, a Zionist agent, out traveling in the world scouting possibilities for a Jewish homeland. They promptly got into a discussion about the homeless condition vis-a-vis the ownership of property. Fever, abuse of drugs, tribal blood-warfare ubiquitous and never-ending, the thousand threats to white intrusion here, many of them invisible, turned the colloquy increasingly deranged.

"What is the modern state," Yitzhak declared, "but a suburban house-lot taken up to a larger scale? Anti-Semitism flows directly from the suburban fear of those who are always on the move, who set up camp for a night, or pay rent, unlike the Good Citizen who believes he 'owns' his home, although it is more likely to be owned by a bank, perhaps even a Jewish bank. Everyone must live in a simply-connected space with an unbroken line around it. Some put hair ropes to keep snakes out. Any who live outside property lines of any scale are automatically a threat to the suburban order and by extension the State. Conveniently, Jews have this history of statelessness."

"It's not dishonorable to want your own piece of land, is it?" Fleetwood objected.

"Of course not. But no Jewish homeland will ever end hatred of the unpropertied, which is a given element of the suburban imperative. The hatred gets transferred to some new target, that's all."

posted by mrgrimm at 3:17 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Imagine if I said "Barak Obama is not African-American, his ancestors were not slaves owned by a white man and none of them even worked on a plantation". I would call that racist, just as I would call arguments that some arrogant grad student was not really homeless classist.

I just don't think these things are the same. I guess because people literally not having a "home" is not really what I think is at issue here. I would say the argument that some arrogant grad student's situation really compares with many of the others cited here on a semantic basis completely ignores privilege. But what would I know, I'm the classist here, right?
posted by liketitanic at 4:10 PM on October 28, 2009

Okay, you know, this is not productive for me. Sorry, idiopath. Whatever axe you're grinding is different than the axe I'm grinding and neither of us really seems to care. I'm out.
posted by liketitanic at 4:14 PM on October 28, 2009

liketitanic: whether you fit in the binary category of "classist" is as unimportant as whether that dude was really homeless. As you say, it is significant that he has other social privileges that many others who are homeless do not have. This is because homelessness is only one aspect of social class. And I think that talking about the binary of having a home or not as a standin for social class, to the extent that someone with class privilege but without a home is somehow "not really homeless", is a class issue. And no, I don't mean by that to accuse you of being classist. The world is a bit more complex than that, and the way we talk about something can reinforce an ideology we don't find desirable. I am not trying to hurl an insult at you, but to talk about the way an issue is talked about, and some of the consequences of talking about it that way.

I am even willing to accept the possibility that defining homelessness to imply marginalization is actually a better approach, and that we are better off delineating the boundaries of real homelessness and pseudo-homelessness. But I have not seen any good arguments for that case here.
posted by idiopath at 4:25 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

You know, I had a lot of friends (when I was younger and sort of flitting around the outer edge of the crusty/gutter punk scene) who were technically homeless in that they did not pay rent or have a stable roof over their heads, but most of them would agree that there are different degrees of homelessness. The twenty-one year old kid with a copy of Cometbus in his pocket who sets out to explore the world without money via its cold alleys, freight cars and seedy underbellies is not exactly the same thing as the sixty-year old bi-polar alcoholic who got kicked out of the state-funded mental institution because of a budget shortfall and now finds himself haunting the block around the local homeless shelter.

There is "homeless" meaning itinerant, meaning not interested in having a permanent address, meaning choosing to eschew the traditional symbols of security and stability for reasons personal, political or otherwise.

And there is "homeless" meaning meaning indigent, meaning unable to have a permanent address, meaning being deprived of security and stability for reasons economic, medical, familial or otherwise.

Certainly there's a lot of gray area between those two poles. I'm not denying that. But anyone who tells you that homeless by politics/aesthetic/philosophy is the same as homeless by circumstance is deluding herself.
posted by thivaia at 8:12 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been homeless for 9 months and loving it. Plan on staying this way for at least another 2 years. People treat me different? Yep, they're all envious.

Sounds like her issue has more to do with losing her daddy.

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." KK
posted by HTuttle at 9:50 PM on October 28, 2009

Oh, and being 'invisible' is in her own mind.
posted by HTuttle at 9:52 PM on October 28, 2009

She was depressed and living in her van... but now she's a motivational speaker, and she moved her van onto a delightful piece of riverfront property!
posted by markkraft at 2:28 AM on October 29, 2009

I despise TED for reasons I can't really fully express yet. Most of them have to do with trying to package IDEAS! with shiny, shiny marketing, and the apparent tendency to try to make everything INSPIRING!

This was one of the more interesting TED talks I've seen; but the thing about it that strikes me is that it's clearly not about homelessness. Her illuminating moment came when she realized Tim Russert was talking about her? She sank into depression, but doctors, and even the homeless themselves, were telling her she wasn't really homeless? I don't get the feeling she's trying to make some grand point about how homeless people are marginalized because doctors tell them they aren't really homeless. I think this is more about her depression and the spiraling depths it drew her to. Yes, if you're chronically depressed, then living in a van and shitting in a bucket won't help a bit. But the fact is that there are chronically depressed people who live in big, fancy houses; living in a van exacerbates depression, sometimes even causes it, but it isn't the only cause, and it seems pretty clear that hers was set off by different factors, especially considering that she had release valves all the way through. Couldn't help thinking of this:
But still you'll never get it right
'Cause when you're layin' there at night
Watching roaches climb the wall
If you call your Dad he could stop it all...
... not of course because "the homeless" are in any way analogous to "the common people" but because those safety valves matter. This woman mentioned them briefly, but...

Well, it was just a seven-minute talk. I guess you can't really get to the heart of the actual problem in seven minutes. But if it is possible, she sure didn't, as happy as I am for her and for the fact that she's seeing at least a little bit of those ridiculously exorbitant TED fees.
posted by koeselitz at 3:05 AM on October 29, 2009

idiopath: If you are talking about the lack of a safety-net, then homelessness is a part of something else that is larger; many people with homes lack a safety net and lack essential resources.

That's ridiculous, idiopath. I'm sorry, but it is. The safety net is the entire point. If there is a safety net, then we're doing good. Yes, there are people with homes who don't have safety nets. Homelessness isn't "a part of something larger;" it's part of the whole safety-net-lacking society of poverty-stricken families. This is a basic logical step you're missing here; some people who lack a safety net aren't actually homeless, but none of the true homeless are people with a safety net – at least not the homeless we need to worry about.

To put it in a way that I hope will make basic sense:

In a perfect world, people will be free to do what Becky Blanton did. As well they should; it's everyone's right to wander off and live in a camper if they so choose. I don't have a problem with a world where people are free to choose the lifestyle she chose, and presumably there will always be people who choose to live like that.

What I have a problem with is a world where people are forced to live like that. Driven to it not by the fact that they're depressed about some painful thing they've gone through (and I mean no disrespect to her loss; frankly I understand the whole 'depression makes you sink pretty low' vibe quite well) but by the fact that they have no food, no money, no job, and no real way to procure the necessities for a happy and healthy life. That's what we should be trying to work to avoid. We can talk about 'marginalization' all day, but I don't think that's the point at all; you may believe that some sort of middle-class suburban whitewashing is to blame for shoving the homeless into a corner, but the practical fact is that there is simply no legal or political provision for these people. That doesn't mean we need to 'change the way we see the homeless' or something like that – nothing so abstract – what we need is to start making them a spending priority and helping them gain housing and food.
posted by koeselitz at 3:24 AM on October 29, 2009

Homelessness is an issue when it is not a choice, and a person wants out, and can't get out. Yes. My issue is with calling that kind of homelessness "real homelessness". Being homeless is sometimes a reasonable choice for a person who could afford a home if they chose one.

I am talking about two different points here: this strange mystical quality people seem to attach to homelessness where the idea of a person with money choosing to forego having a home offends them, and the way that a person who is destitute and lacks a home becomes part of a special subhuman social category. I am suggesting that there is a connection between these two things.
posted by idiopath at 4:30 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

My problem, idiopath, is you seem to be trying to define "home" to mean strictly "a place where you either own the land or pay rent directly to the landlord", which to me really cuts out large swaths of people who would not consider themselves to be homeless.
posted by muddgirl at 5:48 AM on October 29, 2009

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