Here I tell you my thoughts about this topic and also my experiences.
I have been going around as a nomad for years and even television and newspaper wrote about me regarded as a homeless.
While traveling, aren’t we homeless?
We may have an ‘home’ somewhere, but it’s also possible that we are traveling for long and we have given it away or have no access to it anymore.
Even an homeless may have an home or a family somewhere in the world, but it does not make the situation better, they may have been victim or family abuse or similar problems.
The society accepts us, travelers, probably because we are seen as people with money to spend, we (often)have a temporary accommodation, we don’t seem sad and we will ‘leave soon’; or so is supposed to be.
Even if you are in such a unstable situation as not being in your country, when you are a traveler you are not feeling down because you are enjoying the trip.
During my trips I have often crossed my road with homeless persons, sometimes I have heard their story and tried to help, but I have never done enough I guess.
Being with limited financial capabilities and without a roof on you head of course is one of the worst situations that can happen.
The feeling of being without a place is hard to understand if you don’t experience it.
That’s why I spent awhile without contacting any host (or hostel) and relied on nature or goodwill of randomly met people.
–I got some interviews from national Finnish media, which are maybe the most honest medias of the world, still they where not really accurate and I seemed as a desperate in the pictures. So try to imagine what kind of disruption, or destruction, of reality media from other countries would show you.–
From one’s point of view this kind of lifestyle can be called “Absolute Freedom”, from another perspective it could be a nightmare for many others.
Is hard, sad and humiliating to be in such a situation where you have no money to pay a rent, where you are in the street, in the cold (sometimes freezing and rainy), looking for shelter and food.
People and institution, especially in western-northern countries, are keen to help you, but not always, not in the way one needs.
Mostly the help you get is a superficial or materialistic aid: a shelter for few days–oftentimes you need even to pay for it–a bit of food, some compassionate words.
I think that who is in the street needs, of course, first of all a shelter and food, but, immediately after he needs more than this.
Because the reason why he/she–or “han”, in the non-sexist Finnish language–is in the street can be often a psychological one, I guess that someone is there cause he does not feel “cared for”, and probably didn’t connect strongly enough with others or something special.
The more in need, the less help
Would’t you think that when someone is in the street, without a place where to go, other people would help him?
Would it not be rational, logic and fair to see resources, good will and care for who needs it?
Surprisingly enough, many people DON’T help. Often it happens that the more the person needs help, the less he gets it.
We love to help people like us, people that has something in common with us. So, who would admit to himself to have something in common with an homeless or a ‘poor’ person?
Probably not plenty people would think that and this makes people refraining from getting any close to the ones most in need.
I was “homeless” myself and I felt down, even if I have mostly a strong character and I am a social person
Article on a popular national Finnish newspaper ‘Helsingin Sanomat’
I did an experiment on myself, I decided to not rent any place and not to rely on money for few months. Later I will write more about the daily life of this period, but now I want to concentrate few lines about the relation homeless/traveler.
The thing that made me having quite much concern about homeless people is that while experiencing myself to be a ‘homeless’, I was feeling down, depressed unsupported, and still I was really lucky because:
I do have a home somewhere in the world,
I do have a family that loves me,
I have friends,
I have social skills,
I know how to survive in extreme situations,
I do have some savings,
I choose to be ‘homeless’, I can ‘opt out’ from my situation in any time,
I have a computer and smartphone in order to get information’s and communicate,
I have all tools to live wherever I am: sleeping bag, sleeping pad,
I am EU Citizen, “sadly” privileged in terms of migration;
…and anyhow I was feeling often extremely weak without my own place where to go.
No home, feeling free?
I had the wish to feel free, I wanted to have no roots and no place to relay on, to be as free as a “bird”.
I was just roaming around, finding a place to sleep on the last moment…
Yes, it could have been funny, it was sometimes.
But in our society, with our level of domestication, we often need to have one place, even a small point, which we account as our space, our “home”.
Missing this place can distress, overwhelm and make us feel highly vulnerable; and so I felt.
Humans = social, or not?
Let’s not forget that Humans are Social Animals, the social component is quite strong, we need constant positive social contacts in order to not get depressed.
Causes of homelessness
In our society we have alcoholism, drugs abuse, gambling, military service, being incarcerated, unhealthy food and other addictions that ruins millions of lives, but after my experience, I would say that what really makes homeless happen are the following:
Classit society, economical injustice. We all want to be superior to someone else, that’s why we use the homeless as a reason to be proud of ourselves: we are not homeless = we are succeeding better than others(homeless) = we are proud of ourself, even if we are much worse than a homeless as human being.
People address homeless as parasite that want to live for free, not understanding how nice those persons may be and how big troubles they have to get into society.
When we see a homeless, we think that the problem does not belong to us, we often don’t even notice them anymore, people steps on them carelessly, both metaphorically and literally.
Numerous social welfare systems fail to address homelessness, they pretend the homeless would do paperwork– and often–would have documents of the same city where he is, which is the exact reason of the homelessness: People lacking social skills to do paperwork, people moving from one place to another; in other words, the system that we have which should take care of the homeless, is itself the reason of the homelessness. This happens even in countries with great social institutions (Finland, Denmark, Belgium).
Mental health and addictions
Often people in the street have Psychological or alcohol problems, but not always!
Those persons are not harmful, at least most of the times.
Just in few cases they may be hard to approach, in such situations, well skilled persons–with knowledge of psychology–should get in touch with them. Not Police.
How to help a homeless
What I did myself is started several self-created small projects about helping persons in the streets, I have also joined existing communities, In the Dominica Republic I have met people from Assoartca, a street music school in the street, for everyone.
I have helped a bit with Food Sharing in Copenhagen, which is an organization to share food that would be wasted otherwise.
I made a Small Guide about living with little money and I try to share those information’s with people that needs it.
One of the next project I am realizing, which will effectively help.
Where people can repair a bicycle by them-self, but the place also provide activities and support to those without a shelter.
Street surfers action, let’s help our friends “host-less”
I have organized several times meetings to sensibilize and actively help who is in the street.
It was an event on Couch Surfing, this was written in the meeting page:
“Don’t you think that the people on the street could have been maybe your friends or relatives?
Is not just because I want to be Philanthropic, but because I don’t enjoy myself if people around me don’t do it neither.
It’s cold outside, it’s even colder when people behave indifferent to your problems.
The practical plan of the socio-meetings is:
“We aim at taking someone home for one week (food and accommodation), make him a workaway (woofing or helpex profile) & BeWelcome profile.
Teach them basic urban survival techniques: BeWelcome, Dumpster diving, Hitchhiking, Bicycling (find, buy and use bicycles).
We can see to find a way for them to get to them new au pair host or a new cs host.
If anything happens with your new street csers guests just post it in the event page, other members will jump into the problem to help you (and him eventually).
Of course nobody is forced to do anything, but if we make a strong group we can help each other and win the cause…”
HELPING HOMELESS IS LIKE DATING
To help in the best way a homeless you should should behave as you are in a date. You should approach the person in an non invasive way and start a casual conversation.
It’s relieving for society to think that the homeless is in the street because he chooses to be outside, excluded.
The truth is that we are excluding them.
TREAT THEM AS A FRIEND
You should talk to a homeless just as you are talking to a normal person, like a friend.
Don’t talk in first instance about their problems, first try to get to know them with random talks and just afterwards you can ask a bit about their past.
HELP ONE AT THE TIME
Helping someone means a regular commitment, you should find one person that you wanna help and go regularly to visit, seeing what you can do for him and with the time find possible solution for his homelessness.
A short visit every two-three days is important, you should also first learn about the problems and find out the possible way of helping.
If the person is able to work you could find match on a volunteering website: WorkAway, HelpX, HoVoS.
Someone that needs medical care may need you to bring them to a hospital, eventually you may contact the city council to seek for solutions.
Don’t pretend to find a solution within one day.
While trying to help someone, I noticed that even my phone, which I reputed smart, has no idea about what it means to be a homeless. while I was editing my phone-book I was adding the number of a person from the street, that I met in the street, the phone showed me the number registered as “home number”, ironically it was stored this way, even if this person has no home.
Would a phone mind it?
Would you be smarter than a phone?
DOCUMENTS, PERMISSIONS AND BUREAUCRACY
Every government and institution has some kind of support for people in the street, but in the most of the cases it’s not matching their needs. Often you need not just to be citizen, but also to have the residence in a certain city to get even the smallest support.
We can’t accept those barriers.
This bureaucraZy is the exact reason of homelessness, many don’t go through the paper work or are not allowed to.
We need just to make one rule: Sleeping on a bed is a fundamental human right and regardless of the background of the person, all have the rights to have a bed at least, if not a house!
What is worse? To think without do or to do without thinking?
I am really curious to know your point of you, what is for you the difference between an homeless and a traveler?
Write it in the comment!