Home Is

In 2001 I fell through a hole in the safety net and kept falling. There really wasn't any safety net. Home became my car. Health care became the emergency room. I listened, enviously, as a woman talked about sweeping her porch at home. At home. I wished I had a porch to sweep, or a garden to tend. I had no home, and for a couple of frantic weeks, neither did my poor dog.

The experience will haunt me forever. Probably, I need professional help to recover from this. I did not use drugs or alcohol to numb the pain, and homelessness is painful. It shakes you to the core of your being. The common "wisdom" is that the homeless are mentally ill, or drug addicted, or alcoholic. Go to a shelter and talk to some of the persons living there. Stereotypes are too easy, too convenient. People are homeless because they have no home. It's often a question of affordability and availability.

I've known plenty of mentally ill people who had homes, and so have you. Plenty of alcoholics have homes--some own their homes. You know it and I know it. Drug addicts have homes too. Ask Rush Limbaugh if his drug habit made him homeless...fat chance.

People are homeless because they can't afford housing. Monthly net income for low income worker = $1500 after taxes. Monthly rent in Brooklyn or Queens or Bronx or (less likely) some parts of Manhattan for typical studio or 1 bedroom = $1200-$1500, if you look really hard. (Duh?) Nothing from nothing = nothing.

Another no brainer: people get AIDS and Hep C from dirty needles because they used dirty needles! (See: Needle Exchange Programs and the fascists that oppose them) How much would it cost to provide clean needles to addicts through a needle exchange program that could be largely staffed by volunteers? "Follow the money trail," said one woman. Who benefits financially from the expensive drugs used to treat AIDS and Hep C?

And who benefits from the skyscraper high rents?
In New York, for example, for about $900 a month you can get a room (in some Y's), approximately 12 by 20 feet, a shared bathroom that may or may not be on the same floor, no kitchen, no sink, no fridge. ("Like Robinson Carusoe, it's primitive as can be...") And you might find yourself sharing the room with a mouse or bedbugs. If you get stuck with an inner room, you won't get cell phone access, so tell your family and friends to call you during the day when you're out on the street.

Speaking of affordable housing and real estate. Today's DailyNews brought us the story of a real estate mogul who had a computer full of baby porn. His business is selling luxury homes to the well heeled and exploiting the abuse of small children. Words almost fail me at this point. Except that I hope he soon finds himself housed in the best American jail his money can't buy.

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