Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Straw That Made the House Collapse

Dear Homeless Dude Who Looked Like My Dad,

I see homeless people in my city every day. Every day I feel sad about homelessness, and everyday I wonder how we can fix it. And everyday, I hope to the deities that the work I do can help to prevent at least one more person from falling through that particularly nasty crack.

Usually it's easier to see how a person falls into homelessness. Sometimes you can see that a person is suffering from symptoms of mental illness. Or maybe you can see fairly obvious signs of addiction.

Note, these things don't justify homelessness, but they are obvious reasons that can explain why a person may not live independently in their own home, managing their own affairs.

Today, as I was on my ride to work, I saw a guy who looked exactly like my stepdad. This guy looked clean, he looked healthy, and he also looked homeless (sitting in a corner of a building's entry with a giant backpack, heavy coat, etc.).

I may be jumping the gun in assuming this person is homeless. I'd like to think he's a traveller, but I can't be to sure of that considering our current economic climate, and considering the things he had with him.

I'm left wondering, at what point do our tenuous lives collapse?

Which thing is it that tears down a lifetime (generations even) of effort to achieve a life of relative comfort?

And if it's no one thing, how do all things combine and conspire to create such loss? [Keeping in mind that homelessness is not just a loss of shelter; it is also often indicative of a loss of employment, relationships, and recognition within a community.]

How can a person find themselves in a place where they are left with nothing?

What can we do? How do we do it?

Searching for stability in unstable times,